Freebooter Sunk: Sinks Kickstarter, Stops Development

By Craig Pearson on July 12th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Oh, I hate it when this happens. Ambitious and blocky Elite-with-pirates game Freebooter struggled to gain any traction on Kickstarter. It seems like that was going to be a lifeline for the developers, who’ve looked at the fact they’ve earned only £4,066 of the £50,000 goal in 12 days and made the decision to scuttle the game. They’ve taken the move to cancel both the Kickstarter and the development. For now.

I opened my heart to Freebooter. I welcomed it, and now, at least for the time being, it’s gone. I’d planned on backing it when a few invoices had cleared, but I I’ll never get to do so. The team put out this statement.

We have decided to close the Kickstarter and stop the development of Freebooter for the foreseeable future. At the time of writing, we are still at 8% of the Kickstarter goal amount, and we do not see a way to turn things around before the end of the Kickstarter.

We have loved the idea of Freebooter ever since we first discussed it and we have enjoyed working on the game for the past year. We knew it was a very ambitious project from the start and that it would be a long shot to get it made, but we are happy that we have made an attempt.

And now, because I am a glutton for punishment, here’s what it looked like.

You were going to help me make the RPS piracy tag a wonderful thing. *sniff*

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75 Comments »

  1. dontnormally says:

    Dang, looks pretty interesting.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      - It sure does, if you ignore a few rough edges here and there.
      - Oh, it’s made entirely of rough edges?
      - AWKWARD SILENCE

      • Ansob says:

        Not sure you understand the concept of an alpha.

        No, wait; I’m pretty sure you have no clue what an alpha is.

        • buzzmong says:

          I think a *whooosh* is in order for not getting the joke that’s it got rough edges because everything is made of blocks.

    • Flopper says:

      I think the dev failed to get the word out. Maybe the Kickstarter failed cause NO ONE EVER FUCKING HEARD OF THE GAME UNTIL YOU CANCELED DEVELOPMENT.

      • Gradenko says:

        Well, how exactly do you get the word out without money, a big name, or the coattails of a beloved classic? RPS is one of the only sites that even bothers to give indie Kickstarters any press.

        • AngoraFish says:

          A great many indie developers seem to manage. The ones that fail sit around waiting for sites like RPS to do all the promotional heavy-lifting for them.

          The Freebooter devs only ever sent out two small updates, and none at all in the six days prior to cancelling. If you aren’t willing to show enthusiasm for your own product you can’t expect others to either.

          The greatest tool of any unknown Kickstarter is to keep enthusiasm high, then let your initial backers spread the word through their forums and social networks.

          Cancelling less than halfway into the pledge period, with a very achievable target still in reach, is more evidence if anyone needs any that the devs were never particularly serious about their campaign in the first place.

          • noclip says:

            I can’t find the source but I’ve seen 1,000+ thrown around as the average number of developer emails large sites like RPS get every day. Blaming developers by saying that other indies manage to get the word out is like blaming people for losing the lottery.

          • AngoraFish says:

            Except if you read my post, I think you’ll find that we aren’t disagreeing. If a developer is relying on the indie gaming press to sell their Kickstarter for them they’re setting themselves up for disappointment.

    • rxyz says:

      I was tempted to pledge to this. Too late now though.

      • Bfox says:

        Was waiting for the last minute panic thread for funding on /v/, that might of made me pledge..

  2. Ultra Superior says:

    My advice – leave the pixelart, leave the blocks. The idea is great, so why not hire one more artist to make it LOOK great as well, hmm? Goodbye.

    • scatterlogical says:

      My advice – leave the same repetitious whinging about voxels, leave the critique about pixel art. Every time there’s a game that uses pixel art or voxels there’s at least one twat – who in an attempt to feign superiority and wisdom like a wine-sipping, beard-twirling nob at a contemporary art galllery – proclaims how awful or boring or over-used pixel-art/voxels are in games. It’s actually incredibly imperceptive – in case you hadn’t noticed, pixels are the fundamental medium upon which games are projected – and you clearly have no understanding of the work involved in game art. If a small developer is more focused on providing a good gameplay experience, your high-poly bling with HDR lighting and dynamic shadows takes a back seat. Prefer the bling? Play some shallow AAA manshooter or something. Whatever. Just stop your bloody whining.

      • Shooop says:

        And here comes the hipster favorite, “You’re just a graphics whore!” ‘rebuttal’.

        All indie games don’t have to look like fucking Tetris. You’re not special or more open-minded just because you like it. If anything your “Go play a shallow AAA corridor shooter” response proves you’re just the opposite side of the same shallow coin as those people.

        Get out of here and take your Pabst cans with you.

        • Discopanda says:

          STOP HAVING OPINIONS YOU TWITS

        • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

          Overly strong opinions => hipsters?

          Is that what it means?

          • Mad Hamish says:

            hipsters are the imaginary villains people blame when they have no counter argument.

          • Shooop says:

            No, but posts that consist of “If you don’t like the way this game looks, you’re a graphics whore and should play pretty but crappy games instead!” do.

        • scatterlogical says:

          Wow, totally rational response there. So, you put words in my mouth, polarize the argument, then fling insults at me for stuff you made up? You’d make a great politician (or pre-schooler).

          I never implied that indie games should just look like this. Or that there’s anything wrong with AAA manshooters (at least, not graphically). Nor did I defend the graphics on this game (which do look decidedly bland). I simply (well, actually quite long-windedly) said I was sick of hearing smug assholes whinge about blocky graphics and pretend it’s all so easy to fix without a modicum of understanding of the process involved. And my reward for that? I get some smug asshole conjure up some reasons to call me a hipster instead.

          I guess internet comments sections are fantastic places to learn about the complete lack of reasoning that some people are able to demonstrate.

          • Shooop says:

            Your comment says exactly none of that and consists only of a “You don’t like these graphics? Then you’re just graphics whore who should play shallow but good looking games instead!” attack.

            Direct quote: If a small developer is more focused on providing a good gameplay experience, your high-poly bling with HDR lighting and dynamic shadows takes a back seat. Prefer the bling? Play some shallow AAA manshooter or something.

            The people complaining about everyone who says, “I wish this game looked a little better” are much more numerous than the others. You’re basically the old man who complains about people having more things in their lifetime.

            You think preferring a game that was made with punch-cards makes you superior somehow? It doesn’t. It makes you an insufferable little twit who spouts off about how “lo-fi is better”. Guess what group of people do the same thing – only for music?

            Go buy yourself a Magnavox Odyssey off Ebay since the Atrai 2600 is probably too mainstream for you.

          • kwyjibo says:

            “polarize the argument”?

            You polarize the argument from the outset by dismissing complaints about the boring, bland, semi-ubiquitous Minecraft-lite box art, as being from those who are more at home in some shallow AAA manshooter. Because Call of Duty is really renowned for its excellent art direction right? How did you even get to that conclusion? I’m guessing it’s that you’re an idiot.

            That piece of polarization actually comes after the bit where you dismiss critics as “twats”, who “attempt to feign superiority and wisdom like a wine-sipping, beard-twirling nob at a contemporary art galllery”. I’m sure you were stuffing “smug assholes” face with glee while writing that line right? How did your reasoning get to this point?

            And it’s not the internet, because I’d have shot this back into your face in real life too. I’m sure you’re an idiot there too.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            You, and the people responding to you, got entirely WAY too upset over an argument about nothing.

            No one should care that much about graphics, or the opinions of others RE: graphics. This is a universal truth, applicable to all cultures, all religions or lack thereof, and all walks of life.

        • gi_ty says:

          How dare you defile the venerable Pabst! It is the favored beer of Trailer Dwellers all across Uh-mer-ica (their illiteracy does not dampen their patriotism). You would slander this great American institution with your foolish anti hipster rant, HOW DARE YOU!

      • Elmarby says:

        Being hideously ugly is not a virtue.

        • Focksbot says:

          “Being hideously ugly is not a virtue.”

          Right, but most 3D models of human beings over the last 20 years have been hideously ugly. At least spritework characters don’t look like puppeteered corpses.

      • Ricochet64 says:

        You are such an unbearable asshole that I cannot come up with more than one sentence to reply to you with.

        • scatterlogical says:

          Well thank bloody christ on a fuckstick for that, because I couldn’t stand more than a single sentence bleated into existence from the shriveled walnut rattling around in that biscuit tin you keep on top of your neck.

          I do find it intriguing that your reaction to a comment you find offensive is to counter with one equally as offensive though. A wiser person might just shut the fuck up and go do a crossword or something instead of getting all huffy under the collar.

          Cheerio :)

        • Shooop says:

          Are you talking to me?

      • Mad Hamish says:

        and their solution for it “hire an artist” really just shows their ignorance. Hire a bloody artist, easy as that. Maybe he would have done be he had the money. Also the use of the blocks is as much a game design decision as an art style one. Actually more so, the blocks allow a level of customisation that is otherwise not achievable. A bloody 6 year old with a lego set could tell you that.

        I’m pretty sick of the reactions it’s getting these days to. A lot of people seem to think you can just magic up some nice art or models and they animate themselves too. Cheap games made by one or two people look basic for a reason, the ones that don’t usually take many years to complete and don’t give me that hipster bollocks please. It’s not an argument or a reason, just an imaginary person you can blame everything on.

        • Shooop says:

          Can you blame someone who hasn’t ever tried to make a game before for not knowing exactly what it entails?

          He doesn’t like the voxel style but likes the gameplay concepts. Is that not a valid opinion? Does that justify a “You’re just a graphics whore who wants shallow manshooters instead!” shitpost in response?

          I”m seeing people using lo-fi graphics as their only gauge of how good a game is. That is not a smart thing to do – it wasn’t a smart thing to do when the obsession was over hi-fi ones.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        So many of the old games – from the era when pixel art was a necessity –
        had artists who managed to create stunning pictures and atmosphere in low-res constraints.

        The pixel “art” we’re seeing lately is often cheap and in some cases downright lazy, playing on a pretense of nerdship and faux nostalgia?

        Anyway, I like your rage, mr. righteous fury… Welcome to the dark side.

        • Mad Hamish says:

          Lazy? And you are so confident in that accusation. Yet you know nothing of the games prodution. These people are making games that have an incredibly low chance of success, monetary or otherwise. They do it out of a love for games. And you dare shout “lazy” from the peanut gallery?

          • Ultra Superior says:

            Perhaps chances of success increase, when the love for games is VISIBLE to potential buyers and players, hmm?

          • Mad Hamish says:

            I can see it. Maybe you need to look harder. There might be something superficial obstructing you view.

          • Ultra Superior says:

            Superficial blocks.

        • Focksbot says:

          Speaking as someone trying to do art for a game right now … any amount of functional art is a hell of a lot of work. Pixel art is a hell of a lot of work. And modern-looking 3D graphics are so much work that unless you’re doing it as a full-time job, it will literally take a one or two man team years to provide all the assets for a decent-sized game. That’s why game companies have massive art teams and do employ them full time.

          Calling people ‘lazy’ for opting for pixel art is like calling someone lazy for building a fucking submarine instead of a space station.

          • Ultra Superior says:

            I agree that finding a good artist or an appealing art style that’s doable on low budget is HARD.

            However, what’s the point of investing your time in a project that’s likely to fail due to bad visuals?

            Creating games is a team effort, so if your game is in danger of looking LAZY, then better find a talented artist.

          • Derpa says:

            Ultra is a pretty decent troll.

          • Shooop says:

            The point is they probably can’t afford to Ultra. They’re amateurs who don’t have a large body of work behind them that makes people throw money at them.

            It’s fine you don’t like the graphics. It’s perfectly valid to say that (despite what someone else would have you believe…) But do understand they probably can’t afford to make anything more fancy.

            If you happen to know any artists who could help them out and not break their budget then tell them about this game. Worst that could happen is they say no.

      • Machinations says:

        This is why rps is best..such poignantly snarky comments with intelligence..makes me giggle

        • Reefpirate says:

          The flame wars here really are more pleasant than other places, most of the time.

          On the subject at hand, I get that some people will have a hard time getting over pixel-art or cubes when trying to enjoy a game. But it’s also true that there are mechanical and not just artistic or ‘lazy’ reasons to use them.

          And it certainly would be silly to say that these ‘lazy’ art styles will hamper the financial success of any given game… Minecraft, Cube World and Terraria should suffice as examples of these types of art styles really catching on fire and making millions of dollars for their creators in some cases.

          • gi_ty says:

            Its true. It is the main reason I mainly come here for news and especially the commentary. Even the average troll often will demonstrate literacy and comprehension of various concepts better than 80% of comments I read on various tech and gaming sites.

    • Flopper says:

      I THINK IT LOOKS FUCKING PRETTY YOU CUCKOLD!

    • noodlecake says:

      the voxel approach just allows people to customize their ships with a lot more freedom generally. I’m all for it. It’s okay not to like it. It’s definitely not for everyone.

      • Shooop says:

        And this is a good reason for liking it.

        What irks me is when people start assuming just because someone says they don’t like how a game looks they’re only interested in a game’s graphics.

        It’s like claiming someone doesn’t like music if they don’t like the hisses and pops of a song played from a cassette tape. It’s a fallacy.

  3. speps says:

    If only they made it with proper graphics and more like an “Overboard!” (Shipwreckers in the US I think) remake…

  4. Freud says:

    I think there is a little bit of Kickstarter fatigue currently.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Are YOU fatigued? Please, make yourself comfortable on my sofa.

      Your father used to KICK the doors every time you STARTED to masturbate, hmm?

      • CraftyBanana says:

        For a moment, I thought “Wow, that was unnecessarily aggressive.” Then I comprehended your true genius, and LOLed heartily.

    • Premium User Badge FriendlyFire says:

      Nah, but there most certainly is a fatigue for games which always reuse the blocky Minecraft-like aesthetic.

      We get it, you want to have simple customizable models, but after a while people start getting tired of that style.

    • Dave Toulouse says:

      It has nothing with fatigue. Some people forget that for every success story on Kickstarter there are many others campaigns that fail. Even when small amounts are involved.

      Since Kickstarter doesn’t seem to allow to search by these 2 filters together: “ending soon” AND “video games” keep track of this page.

      Projects that fail on Kickstarter are nothing new. It’s just that we mostly hear about those that are successful.

      And for what it’s worth.

    • Melloj says:

      Well, for me at least, it is Kickstarter fatigue, which really means wallet fatigue.

      I looked at my Kickstarter profile the other day and realized that I had backed over $800 (!!) of Kickstarter gaming since 2011 and you know how many games I have played as of yet? All of Zero.

      Unfortunately for the cool projects coming out now, I vowed that I won’t back any more games until I start seeing some results from some of these projects.

      Yes, Yes I know, I am not “buying” games, but supporting developers, but so far none of the developers I have supported have put a final product out.

      • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

        Seems like you’re discovering the wisdom of budgeting.

        • Melloj says:

          Not really, budgeting is “technology” my civilization has already developed; all of those funds were “entertainment disposable”. I mean we are talking about 2.5 years time here.

          It’s just that so far none of the funds I’ve paid into KS projects have led to any tangible results. There have been side benefits (like the Double Find dev videos and interesting update emails to read every few weeks), but no dev, big or small, has yet delivered.

          If KS were an “industry group”, as an investor that is already heavily invested, you’d probably hold off putting more money in the pot until someone produced something. That’s sort of where I am.

          • Grygus says:

            Welcome to the world of publishing; next time you hear that EA forced a game out early, you will have insight into why they did it.

          • Machinations says:

            Youre on to something here…a cooperative publishing house. You dirty commie.

          • Shooop says:

            …Oh crap.

            CONSPIRACY THEORY! Kickstarter is a plot to teach us about game publishing and why it’s sometimes a necessary evil!

          • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

            I didn’t mean that in a snide way.

            I mostly meant the idea that you might have so much money to sink into unrealized games, and thus might find it useful to measure projects against whether they’re worthy of being a slice of that quota.

            Obviously, you could do more, but do you want to?

  5. Rob Lang says:

    They mention in the Kickstarter info that the voxel blocks were going to be replaced – not for aesthetic reasons but for speed. They found that normal looking 3D would render quicker.

    Mucho pity.

  6. McTerry says:

    So basically the common scientific sense of the human brain says; “No money = stop developing the game of my dreams?”

  7. killias2 says:

    Dark Matter only has 5 days left….
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/interwave/dark-matter-1

    Not looking good.

    • Focksbot says:

      I find it absolutely mind-boggling that games like that are falling far short of their goals while something like this – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/967459848/lioness?ref=category – has punched through its target in a matter of days.

      Don’t get me wrong – Lioness looks pretty interesting and I’m tempted to back it myself, but it’s way more ‘out there’ than Dark Matter, with a more rough and ready feel and no indication yet of how it will play. Is the dev a minor celebrity or something?

      And then you have something like Soul Saga!, which also baffles me, because while I too like those classic JRPGs, the market is already flooded with ‘love letters’ to them, and this one doesn’t look like it really pushes the genre in any interesting direction.

      Gah! People.

      • PegasusOrgans says:

        Yeah, Soul Saga confuses the hell out of me. There are JRPGs not making their target, whilst seeking a lower amount than Soul Saga, AND being much more interesting, plot-rich, well written… I just don’t get it.

        Same with Satellite Reign and the new Warhammer Tactics game. It’s infuriating!

  8. zeekthegeek says:

    They should probably have launched the new art style before the campaign; they’d already planned to ditch the voxel style.

  9. DarkFarmer says:

    the less well known you are the more awesome your kickstarter pitch needs to be and I think these guys deviated from the “Dont show anything until its AMAZING” advice that no name indies such as myself need to follow.

    that being said, there is a very good reason to use voxel art and low fi pixel art which is that it is fast and easy to make readable and even pleasant-looking. art is really expensive and slow to make and good artists are in very short supply, mediocre artists make your game worse. in 2d. in 3d, it is almost impossible to make an indie game unless you take “lo fi” shortcuts.

    I think one of the reasons Cube World is so deep already and featureful is that the dev can easily add new stuff because he just has to stack up some cubes rather than model something, UV Map it, make a texture, rig it, animate it, etc.

    so it is an aesthetic choice to go voxel, minecraft, blocky, whatever you wanna call it, but haters should know how tremendously difficult it is to make a 3D, rigged, animated, textured game, you are looking at the difference between 1 guy being able to make something in 2 years versus 30 guys making something in 5 years.

  10. ZombieJ says:

    Stopping development seems a bit drastic. I guess Kickstarter has made indie devs soft. What happened to getting a day job and working on your Indie game in all your extra hours so that you could eventually go pro when it was released and gained acclaim? Sure it’s nice if you can get kickstarter funding, but it shouldn’t have been a crucial part of their plan. It’s money for thin air ffs – I never pay till I can play (an alpha at least).

  11. Nimdok says:

    I really don’t get the idea of cancelling a crowd-funding operation. It’s like, you never know if you’re gonna succeed unless you keep on until the end. Killing it midway through is shooting yourself in the foot, of course you’re not gonna meet your goal.

    • Grygus says:

      I would guess that some of the people working on it were doing so for promises made, promises that had to be kept using the money from the Kickstarter. Once that seemed unlikely, the promises were retracted and the people were lost. If that’s not the case, then I’m just as puzzled as you are. Maybe people would rather say, “I quit” than “I failed.”

    • KitchenDon says:

      I agree. There must’ve been some other factors in their decision to cancel the game. If it was just the money they could have soldiered on with the Kickstarter in hopes of reaching their goal.

  12. Crea says:

    On the voxel / minecraft thing. Just wanted to make a small point in addition to the views expressed above.

    I think in a lot of cases, indie developers who pick one of these signature indie art styles (pixels, voxels, glowy-tron stuff) are not simply aping minecraft et al for the sake of it. Rather, they’re facing the same challenges previous indie developers faced and arriving at similar solutions – it’s not purely an aesthetic choice.

    Most indie devs are coders who are bootstrapping their games. Decent off the shelf art isn’t cheap. So coders bring to bear what resources they DO have (namely programming chops), and lean heavily on content generation techniques where they can leverage programming ability, i.e. voxels, procedural generation etc).

    Not to invalidate the criticism of the art style above, it’s all fair opinion (though I thought it looked rather fetching in action). But when I see a dozen indie games all utilising procedural generation and voxels, I don’t think “ripoff” or “unoriginal”.

    Rather, I think it’s an interesting demonstration of convergent evolution – different indie devs looking at the same problems (“how do I generate THAT much art?”. “How do I keep the complexity of editing down for the player”), and often arriving at the same solution.

    • Shodex says:

      Exactly this. Minecraft’s success comes from Notch finding the best solution to making building accessible and creating large amounts of content without spending millions on art. Before Minecraft, Notch helped Rolf a bit with Wurm Online. A game that is while very different from Minecraft, has many fundamental similarities. Namely in the ability to mine, craft, shape terrain, and build.

      Where Wurm Online falls short the most is it’s piss poor graphics and cliff face learning curve. Wurm tries to look good, realistic, but since it’s being made by a low budget indie group it ends up looking bad. Plus, digging and building in a smooth 3D environment is still a little awkward. Wurm Online put a lot more effort into it’s appearance than Minecraft, yet Minecraft still came out looking better.

      So the question is, why should indie devs take the approach that was proven to be inferior and waste their time creating 3D visuals that games from 2003 could laugh at, when they can use blocky pixel art to get lots of stuff done fast in a style that is both trendy and visually pleasant. Just because Minecraft did it, doesn’t mean nobody else should. It’s as silly a thing as elementary school kids getting mad at each other for having the same shirt.

      What I fail to understand is how people get more upset with Minecraft-y visuals than the blatant ripping off of Sid Meier’s Pirates!. Not that I’m complaining, I love Pirates! and was eagerly looking forward to Freebooter. I’ll be sad to see it go.

    • Shooop says:

      Now this is a great post.

      Calm explanations instead of throwing out “You’re uncultured and shallow if you don’t like it!”

      From a technical standpoint the voxels make sense for these kind of games. It makes the game Avarice possible because it gives different blocks of material different properties like weight and durability – http://steamcommunity.com/workshop/filedetails/discussion/143006254/810923580622258928/

      However it’s a valid opinion to not like the way they look. If somebody says, “I like the concepts but I really don’t like how it looks” do we really have have a lynch mob start up?

  13. PegasusOrgans says:

    So often I ask “Where are the masses of backers behind projects like Torment, Project Eternity, etc when I see such great projects come up. Not only this one, but projects that seem like they are MADE for the same backers like Jagged Alliance and Satellite Reign. The first one barely made it, the second is still unknown. Hell, even Divinity:Original Sin had a struggle for more than half its run.

    I’m eyeing a few projects that are perfectly made to appeal to these 4 million + backers, but they are not biting.