Brief Encounters Of The Third Kind: Dark Matter

By Adam Smith on October 21st, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

Update: GOG are offering refunds to anyone who bought the game before 21 October 2013 at 15:00 GMT and it is no longer available through Steam due to “a known issue at the end of the game”.

The release of Dark Matter might have taken longer to register on my radar if pockets of the internet hadn’t become enraged about the game’s abrupt ending over the weekend. After the failure of its $50,000 Kickstarter, the grotesque alien-infested Metroid-veinier found solace in the arms of publisher Iceberg Interactive. Unfortunately, as Indie Statik have covered in extensive detail, continued development of the game didn’t follow the original plan and the released version is, effectively, the first episode of a game that may never have a second episode. As it stands, the game ends with a whimper and a sudden block of text that is inconclusive to say the least. A shame, because what I played of the game was promising.

Wise Chris Priestman over at Indie Statik followed the thread of this story back to an alpha video that contains revealing developer chat about the game’s state of completion before the Kickstarter ended. Chris has this to say:

As InterWave didn’t get the funding they asked for on Kickstarter, we know they they only had half of the game they had originally planned to create. They had three months to do something with this version of Dark Matter before they sold it on Steam as a finished game. An option presumably available to InterWave would have been to release Dark Matter as an Early Access title on Steam, perhaps, but they decided for a full release instead.

I haven’t played the current version yet so wouldn’t like to judge how much game there is based on a youtube video of the ending but the climax is certainly anticlimactic. This all seems worth knowing before purchasing decisions are made. Eurogamer report that Iceberg reckon “a more conclusive and satisfying ending is coming” but it’s not clear whether that simply means a cutscene and a full stop rather than a ‘to be continued…’

And yes, I know that encounters of the third kind aren’t relevant to a game that’s actually about shooting aliens in the face rather than simply laying eyes on them. Still, I would definitely pay to see the Noël Coward’s screenplay for Alien.

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53 Comments »

  1. bit_crusherrr says:

    It sucks it abruptly ends but it still is more value for money than the £40 6 hour crap shat out by AAA publishers.

    • Tinotoin says:

      I shall never, ever argue with Dean Learner.

    • waltC says:

      The game I automatically thought of for a comparison is the $19.99 (from day 1) Torchlight 2. IMO, T2 blows this thing away in terms of game play, length, overall quality, etc. It was surprising to see a failed Kickstarter game project get picked up by Steam, and even more surprising that people were paying $15 for a 4-hour game with an unexpected text wall for an ending…;) Eh? Don’t people wait to read reviews anymore? Haste makes waste, etc. Also, according to the first comments from the developers defending the current ending, they stated they “ran out of money,” so just what did it mean for the game to be “picked up” by the ” publisher Iceberg Interactive”?

      • bit_crusherrr says:

        I read the game was six hours. I think they should of tried to round the game off rather than toss a black screen on the end with some text. It still doesn’t seem too bad for the money apart from the abrupt ending.

      • Baines says:

        It got onto Steam through Greenlight.

        It got through Greenlight in part because they promised free keys.

        • Shuck says:

          Actually it seems that while they entered the Greenlight process, being “picked up” by the publisher (that has a pre-existing relationship with Steam) allowed them to jump the queue and bypass that process entirely. So that, apparently, is what getting picked up the publisher did for them. (Though I wonder if the publisher’s relationship with Steam will be tarnished as a result of this…)

    • rightyeauhuh says:

      How so? People get hundreds of hours of fun out of the multiplayer portions of those games. They also don’t randomly end out of nowhere with entire mechanics alluded to never appearing.

    • Suits says:

      Except those games don’t mislead you by keeping information about it’s incomplete state from customers. Nothing on the Steam store page said anything of the sort.

    • xandramas says:

      Here’s the ending, not sure why its not linked

  2. Ross Angus says:

    I’d have liked to see what David Lynch would have done with Star Wars myself.

    • baby snot says:

      He would have sucked the fun right out of them.

    • JackMultiple says:

      Well, for one, there would be a lot more damn good pecan pie in Star Wars than there is now.

    • Pippy says:

      Just watch Dune and pretend Arakkis is Tattoine

  3. Moraven says:

    Seems they should have just wrote in a proper Half Life 2 ending. No one would be complaining as loud if there was some ending.

    Make it like Pirates of the Caribbean 1. Good finish, conclusive, open to sequels if successful. Just don’t give us Pirates 2-4.

    • KillahMate says:

      Pirates 3 had a very conclusive ending, which I liked quite a bit in fact. (To be fair, I liked PotC 2 and 3 a lot more than some people.)

      • strangeloup says:

        I got an email from Amazon offering good deals on blu-ray box sets, and one of the options was Pirates of the Carribean 1-4.

        My initial response was “They made a PotC 4?”

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          Seriously?! I ain’t never heard of such a thing, either.

  4. Baines says:

    You left out that no where in the Steam store description does it mention that the released Dark Matter is really just the first episode of a larger (and very likely not to be continued) game. That it is the first episode was only admitted in a damage control post on the Steam forum for the game.

    • airmikee99 says:

      The episode issue may have been left out because it’s a new development that just arose in the last couple days.

      And Steam does have it marked now with the warning, ” Notice: Currently there is a known issue at the end of the game. The developer is aware of the issue and they are working on a patch as a solution.”

      • Yglorba says:

        “Known issue.” I love that wording. Like it’s some kind of bug they’re frantically trying to fix. Yes, I guess “it ends out of the blue with a giant wall of text” is a known issue…

        • Baines says:

          Funnily enough, the dev damage control post on the forum treated it like that. Like the abrupt text wall ending was an unforeseen accident. The ending that they chose to put into the game isn’t up to the standard that they expected?

          From the Steam Forum post by Iceberg Interactive’s CEO:
          It is true however, that at present, the end of the game may cause confusion and is not satisfactory. We sincerely apologise for this, as it is not of the standard we would expect. We are working to offer a more conclusive and satisfying ending to the game as we speak and expect a fix to appear as soon we are able to.

    • Moraven says:

      They should not have used episode. If they just said sequel, it would be less of a problem.

      • Baines says:

        It isn’t a sequel.

        The Kickstarter was for a complete game that would sell for $30. When the Kickstarter failed, they decided to keep working on the game and release it in episodes that would sell for $15 each.

        The “full game” currently on Steam is only the first part of the original game. It ends abruptly because I guess somewhere along the way they decided that they’d likely never make the rest of it, and simply tossed the first part that they’d completed onto Steam and call it a full game. They didn’t even bother to make a real ending for it.

        • Moraven says:

          The part that does not exist due to the KS failure could have been easily packaged as a sequel. You can make a open ending as long as there is some conclusion to the part you just did.

          • Premium User Badge RobF says:

            It could have but it’s probably better as a whole if we don’t start finding ways to package these things up as less bad to the people who might buy them and instead spend that energy on making this sort of thing less acceptable.

          • Moraven says:

            I see it as over ambitious and to large of scope for the budget they had. They were developing it seems at a point for a scope that was based on the success of a KS. Once it failed they should have either stuck with the same scope and take longer to release or reanalyze their development on how much they could offer and if it would still be fun. $15 for 7-9 hours of gameplay seems reasonable.

            We don’t get everything from Molyneux but the games come out half decent at the very least with enough content. To be fair Dark Matter seems to have settled on 90% of the gameplay features and had to cut 6 hours of content from their original scope. If they never talked about sequels and episodes at all and had a half ending this would not even be a controversy.

  5. Dominic White says:

    A couple of additional notes:

    There are achievements in the game for killing enemy types that aren’t even in the game.
    There are elements introduced in the tutorial that you never reach in the game.
    The game literally ends mid-objective, with no hint or warning, in the middle of a corridor.

    Plenty of evidence that this is literally an unfinished release. At no point in development or release did they mention it was unfinished, or that it was episodic in any way, shape or form. It was advertised as the finished, complete game and only after this backlash did they start with this ‘Oh, didn’t you know? If you want the ending you’ll have to pay double and that was totally our plan all along’ spiel.

    It’s pretty insulting to everyone.

    • Premium User Badge RobF says:

      Given the post on reddit alleged to be from the art guy who reckons the team was laid off after the Kickstarter failed, I’m not buying a single thing of this episodic bollocks.

    • Lemming says:

      Wow that is pretty horrendous. I had no idea it was so bad. I just assumed people were getting annoyed that it had an abrupt ending and was shorter than they expected.

      • Dominic White says:

        Yeah, a few people are trying to defend this as ‘It’s just a cliffhanger ending, we have tons of those in games!’, but that just doesn’t fit here.

        Back in the C64/Amiga era, almost every game had a shitty ending. Usually some short animation, a ‘congratulations’ text-scroll or some other weak reward. However, this came after a challenging final level, a boss or otherwise some indication that you’re at or otherwise approaching the conclusion of the game.

        Dark Matter’s ending is roughly equivalent to playing Half-Life 2, getting halfway through the dune-buggy segment and driving into a tunnel only for the screen to go black, and then the game tells you that Gordon went on a lot of interesting adventures and fought the Combine some more, THE END. All of this without any hint that there was any future development planned.

  6. dE says:

    It also seems to be off sale right now. It’s a pity really, the whole concept sounded interesting and even though I was a bit sceptical (too much of Metroidvanias depends upon good Level Design) it did seem rather well done. Then I read about the to be continued part. And now it’s no longer sold.
    I wish them luck and may they punch their actual publisher to give them the money to finish it.

  7. Premium User Badge DrScuttles says:

    To keep on the PSA theme, Day One: Garry’s Incident dev Wild Games Studio manifested themselves as quite the shit over the weekend by abusing Youtube’s copyright infringement madness to block Totalbiscuit’s somewhat negative first look at the game.
    Though in the sake of fairness, I believe Wild Games Studio have, in the face of massive negative publicity, since removed the copyright infringement claim.

    • Lemming says:

      They have, but they are still claiming that they knew nothing about the review being monetized, which is a massive lie.

      • Premium User Badge DrScuttles says:

        Yeah, they’re basically massive shits.

      • Baines says:

        Which did lead to TotalBiscuit making a follow-up video that touched on some of the other negatives surrounding Wild Games Studio and Day One: Garry’s Incident, like its shady Kickstarter donations.

  8. K33L3R says:

    Playing it now, so far really enjoying it.
    Some parts are a little rough however and I’m now a little worried about the ending now, I tend to avoid reading about games I want to pick up and play so I can decide for myself if I liked it, sounds like I made a bad call this time

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Congratulations, you now have a collectors item in your steam list (game’s been taken off the store for being big ol’ dirty liars).

      • K33L3R says:

        Oh dear
        It is a shame that a promising game becomes a bit of a embarrassment, it could get sorted out but I’m not going to be too hopeful about it
        Still going to finish what I have left to play, might as well because I do like it (please note I’m not being a contrarian for the sake of it)

        • Erinduck says:

          It really can’t be sorted out. The devs have said in the Steam forums that the game is “complete.”

          So yeah, they’re kinda assholes.

          • Moraven says:

            You could call Mass Effect 1 incomplete due to not including everything that 2 and 3 has. Very poor wording and communication on their part.

          • Premium User Badge DrScuttles says:

            Though I’ve never played any Mass Effect, I’ve played plenty of games with anticlimactic text-screen endings. They at least tried to build up to something; while I have not played Dark Matter I’ve watched a Youtube video of the ending and it’s just…. wander around, walk through a random door, the end. At least Shadow Of The Beast 2 had a boss fight before just stopping for an advert for the next game.

          • DatonKallandor says:

            The Mass Effect comment is funny because Bioware have literally done the “end the game due to lack of funds, credits splash screen is an add for sequel or expansion”.

            WHERE’S MY SHATTERED STEEL 2 BIOWARE? HUH? WHERE IS IT?

            Because the first one is amazing, probably their second best game after Baldurs Gate 2.

          • Phasma Felis says:

            According to Internet, the final patch (1.14) for Shattered Steel included a whole new single-player campaign that picked up where the original left off. Surprisingly little info about it, though.

  9. Lemming says:

    Surprised RPS haven’t reported on the news over the weekend about TB’s review of Garry’s Incident being taken down as copyright infringement just because he gave it a bad review.

    • airmikee99 says:

      I’m gonna shoot that story over to Ken at Popehat so he can get the reviewer some pro bono work via the Popehat Signal.

      I hate censorious thugs that use the court system to keep people from expressing their opinion, fucking losers.

  10. belgand says:

    This just keeps getting worse. I was upset that it didn’t make its funding on Kickstarter, but was then heartened when they said they suddenly had a publisher and were going ahead with it. And now… they just released their unfinished game to wring some cash out of what they’d already done? That’s terrible.

  11. steamcamel says:

    Sounds like another promising title ruined by a greedy publisher, who had this great idea of releasing an unfinished product and laugh all the way to the bank.

  12. StillUsefull says:

    Worth mentioning that the allways classy GOG is redeeming customers on request: http://www.gog.com/forum/general/release_dark_matter/post121

  13. rustybroomhandle says:

    Sigh, this debacle could have been avoided without even extending the game length by much (which I guess they could not do since their team was allegedly down to 2 after the Kickstarter). I’d love to know what the arrangement with the publisher was.

    • Moraven says:

      So the KS failed, they cut the team and 2 people packaged a game as complete? Sad to here.

      You would hope they just spend a month to create a different ending and see how the game sells. Its obvious their scope was for a twice as much content but could not afford it.

  14. mikmanner says:

    Maybe they should have tried to go with Early Access to fund development of the rest of the game. I can’t help but feel sorry for the developers even though it seems like they have shafted their customers, maybe it was the best they could do in a really a bad situation.

  15. ruthj240 says:

    My Uncle got black Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Sedan just by parttime work from a laptop… ………. http://WWW.JOBS60.COM

  16. Suits says:

    I guess we can expect more of this with Kickstarter being a thing and projects failing all the time.