MMO Rant: Just One Question For Trials Of Ascension


I have just one question for Trials of Ascension and its new dev team: Why?

It’s hard to imagine how many activities one could participate in that have a lesser public image than reviving Trials of Ascension, and I say that having spent several hours thinking about it. Maybe you’d pull it off sending a box full of t-shirts emblazoned with “I defrauded Hasbro and all I got was a lawsuit and this stupid t-shirt” to Atari’s headquarters, or cosplaying as Gazillion CEO Dave Dohrmann to your job’s annual harassment seminar.

But Trials of Ascension makes me look at other failed MMO properties throughout history and wonder 1.) how much could Dragonfire Entertainment have possibly paid for the rights, and 2.) how much did other failed MMOs ask for to not find a buyer? I’m hoping in the deepest crevices of my soul that programmer Brandon Lalonde didn’t pay more than $93 grand for this game property. Why $93 grand? That’s the low end cost of starting a Baskin Robbins franchise, according to 2019 estimates by

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Lalonde would have had much better prospects opening a Baskin Robbins with that money instead of buying an IP that is as reviled as Trials of Ascension. The response from the consumer base would be much better and there would actually be some possibility of revenue flow. Granted it may be possible, even hopeful, that less money was spent on this IP than a down payment on a McDonald’s Double Big Mac, but given the propensity for people to spend a lot of money on worthless properties I can’t say I hold much faith.

For the uninitiated, Trials of Ascension has a long history dating back to 2001. Short story; the game has undergone numerous failed attempts at crowdfunding and has been widely regarded as a big fat scam by alleged con artist Don Danielson who had neither the technical ability or the resources to pull off the game as promised. The game finally launched into Early Access in 2018 only to turn out to be the big failure most expected it would be.

Earlier this month I reported that the Trials of Ascension IP has new ownership and that the game was undergoing a new Kickstarter attempt. Turns out the third time is not the charm because Trials of Ascension is gearing up to not just fail, but fail spectacularly. It’s worth noting that the prior failed ToA Kickstarters raised $86 grand in 2013 which plummeted to $25 grand at the second attempt in 2015. This third attempt is looking at less than four thousand dollars of a roughly ten grand goal.

But the figures get worse when you consider pledges. ToA has two backers at the “ancient dragon” level, minimum payment of $928, and one backer at “legendary hero” level of $571. At least $2,427 of the $3,789 (nearly two thirds) came from only three people.

What kills me with this new venture is apparently the new team at one point thought they could get away with making Trials of Ascension a subscription-based game before changing their minds. A three person dev team can hardly get away with trying to build an MMORPG let alone trying to enforce a subscription model that has killed many bigger and better equipped companies in this genre.

Dragonfire Entertainment is hiring, as long as you’re willing to work for literally less than peanuts. They aren’t going to pay you.

“To be fully upfront, these are volunteer, unpaid positions (except for revenue from external sources). No degree, diploma or certificate required. Just skill, passion, free time and the willingness to work as a team. We have been working on Trials of Ascension out of our own pockets, but we sacrifice for our passion. Are you willing to?”

And if you are old enough to remember when Trials of Ascension opened up its online store to offset the failed Kickstarters, don’t worry; Dragonfire Entertainment is doing exactly the same.

“Alongside extra manpower, in the coming days, we’ll be opening up a way for those to donate directly to help us bring the game to life. Whether you are just discovering this game months after our Kickstarter, or the timing was just wrong, we’ll let you contribute to help develop the game.”

Because nothing says trustworthy quite like opening up a line of income with even less oversight and strings attached than Kickstarter. It worked great for Don Danielson, right? I’m sure ToA’s big backers on the current Kickstarter will flop head over heels to throw a few grand at Dragonfire once this direct donation system goes live, and I’ll be seeing their emails in a few years when the whole thing goes belly up and their banks won’t help them get their money back.

Trials of Ascension looks like an Everquest II prototype-era game. It is beyond my understanding why anyone would purchase such a tainted IP, let alone buy it with the hopes of turning it into a profitable business venture. At the very least you should have taken the assets, scrubbed the Trials of Ascension name from them, and continued development under a pseudonym hoping that nobody would see the connection.

ToA might be under new management, but with the way things are going you’d be forgiven for assuming that Don Danielson’s business acumen was part of the acquisition.

Otherwise I have no opinion on the matter.

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