The Sorry Saga Of Skulls Of The Shogun & Windows 8

Try not to interpret that as a 'told you so' gesture

“When people call Microsoft ‘evil’, it’s kind of an undeserved compliment. To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution…”

Rewind three years, to the Eurogamer Expo, London, October 2010. The staff of Rock, Paper, Shotgun are discussing which game from the Indie Arcade we would decree to be our game of the show. Messhof’s sadly still-private swordfighting micro-epic Nidhogg ultimately took home the trophy, but we were a hair’s breadth from giving it to Skulls of the Shogun. This colourful and witty turn-based strategy game starred undead Samurai, and deftly condensed and remixed what can be a hoary old genre into something fresh, fast and thoughtful. When I played the game then, it seemed slick and surely not far from completion. I anticipated being able to play it just a few months later. I anticipated it finding itself a great many fans on PC. For many and complicated reasons, I was wrong.

It’s now June 2013, six months after Skulls’ Microsoft-exclusive release on Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and XBLA, and I’m talking to Borut Pfeifer of Plush Apocalypse Productions and veteran of EA, SOE and more. He’s one of a small collective of indie studios who collaborated to make Skulls of the Shogun. He was wrong too.

While this laidback-seeming West Coast resident is in reasonable humour and frequently pragmatic about his fearful situation, it’s impossible not to pick up on a certain anxiety, perhaps even dejection. Things have not, as yet, worked out well for Skulls of the Shogun, on PC or on console. “My bank account is empty,” he admits, as well as revealing that, during development, the team had to take out a loan to keep working on the game as their then-publisher Microsoft had yet to make good on the funding it had promised them.

Borut Pfeifer, right, at the Eurogamer Expo in 2010, with joint RPS game of the show runner-up Ian Hardingham of Mode 7

The last time I spoke to Borut was at Rezzed, almost exactly a year ago, where he exuded a certain confidence that’s not quite so much in evidence today. Last Summer, his game was almost complete at last, it had an XBLA release in the bag and it was going to be a poster child for Microsoft’s much-hyped new Surface tablets, Windows Phones and Windows 8 operating system. He eagerly defended the fact that the game would, on PC, only be available or playable on Windows 8, convinced that whatever harm this did would be outdone by the profile the game would receive on other Microsoft platforms as a result of they deal they’d struck. He did, however, seem a little taken aback by the surge of controversy from PC gamers.

The anticipated success didn’t happen. Surface hasn’t been the iPad killer it was touted as, Windows 8 has proven divisive and slow-selling to the point that Microsoft are backtracking on some of the more controversial design decisions, while XBLA has ceased to be the land of indie milk and honey.

“To be fair, we knew we were kind of making a deal with the devil,” he tells me. “Probably one of our biggest mistakes was thinking in 2008 terms, where it’s like ‘if you want to be on console you’ve got to be a console first’, and that’s just not true any more.” Back then, the Skulls team thought XBLA was the gateway to indie success – despite being well aware that getting into bed with Microsoft was unlikely to be a mutually comfortable experience. “By that point we had heard the stories, like about Super Meat Boy, and then [Braid dev] Jon Blow criticised them as well.” They also had their own previous experience of the pain of console certification times and bureaucracy.

“We felt like we knew what we were getting into even though it would take a long time to negotiate. We had something that they wanted, so we thought we’d take advantage of that.” He laughs the sad laugh of hindsight. “It was a case where we were like “we know some things are going to be a problem but we think that on some level we’ll get something out of them as well,” but I think it was an awful lot worse for us than others. We ran into problems that nobody else had got or talked about it.”

Foremost of those was an unfortunate side-effect of being caught up in the launch of multiple new Microsoft products and the need to work with multiple cogs in the enormous, monolithic Microsoft machine to achieve this. What should have meant higher profile in practice meant far more heartache.

“We were launching on three new pieces of the Microsoft ecosystem – their new Async and sort of social multiplayer services, we were launching on Windows 8 and we were launching on the ARM tablets [Surface]. Those were new, and we didn’t get them until very late. So all the certification and process issues, we didn’t just have them, or even maybe three times the amount, it was an exponential kind of thing. You would have issues on one platform which would actually contradict processes or requirements on another platform. We tried to get the different groups on the same page, to tell them that ‘this needs to be the same’, just to make things better for the next people who had to face it, but yeah, we ran into exponential difficulties on the process side.”

Compounding this was a further, yet more painful obstacle presented by the implacable corporate behemoth – not getting paid on time. “We thought ‘well, it’s Microsoft, they have bankroll, they can afford this stuff.’ But because of their processes seeming so fucked up, they couldn’t actually do that. Even though they were partially funding the game to completion, we had to take a loan to cover the fact that they hadn’t yet paid us what they were supposed to.”

Despite his painful experience of working with them, Borut refutes any assertion that Microsoft are actually malevolent. “When people call Microsoft ‘evil’, while I don’t want to defend them, it’s kind of an undeserved compliment. To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution… None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios.”

He also draws a distinction between Microsoft as an overall entity and Microsoft Studios, the game publishing arm the Skulls team primarily worked with. “They came across as though they were institutionally incompetent. I think they’re not really set up to be a decent publisher. I do feel slightly bad saying that, because there were people there who worked hard on our behalf, but at the same time there are systemic problems with the way that division is setup and run.”

On top of that, “I think maybe Microsoft as a whole were taking on a lot more than they can chew with the Windows 8 launch, and there were so many different pieces of the puzzle – Xbox Live, different operating system, interfaces, the tablet, all those different technologies. Any one of those gets late, it pushes the other ones.”

He doesn’t subscribe to the idea that Microsoft has become anti-indie, however. “There are people there, like Chris Charla, the portfolio manager of XBLA – though that’s probably changing, because XBLA is going away – who are great champions, but as a whole, it’s not that Microsoft loves or even hates indies. It’s just that they’re an indifferent machine to it all.”

These revelations have me wondering why the Skulls team publicly seemed to champion the new Microsoft products at the same time as they were having this awful experience. Did they believe it, or did they feel they had to disguise any concerns for fear of worse consequences? “There was certainly an aspect of that in general,” Borut admits. “We just tried to focus on the positive things. To their credit, they never tried to interfere with us creatively, they were very good to work with on that front, but with Windows 8…” The sentence, perhaps just at the mere mention of the notorious OS that has inadvertently come to define his game, tails off into a heavy sigh.

“The thing is, we never saw it as [adopts announcer voice] ‘this is the new desktop operating system!’ I think that’s why we were a little surprised by some of the hate. We thought of it as there were going to be new tablets, they’d probably sell several million of them… Windows 8 was for tablets, really. I got a Samsung one when it first came out and used it from when it was first available. There was a week of, like, pain, but after that I actually quite liked it, on the tablet.

“It was always a tablet-orientated operating system to us, and I appreciate the goal of wanting to bring it together, it’s very forward thinking.” Surface RT, the ARM-powered cheaper version of Microsoft’s Tablet met poor reviews and reportedly low sales, while the more positively-received Pro version, able to run any and all Windows programs, took far too long to arrive. “We hoped they’d sell a few million tablets, and from most reports they did, but either those people are not buying games or they’re not buying games for more than a dollar or two dollars.”

Conversely, the traditional PC version of Windows 8 was never much of a priority, despite the exclusivity agreement. We were always “well, it’s going to come out on Steam later” to ourselves, we didn’t really care if nobody bought it on the PC. Then the public reaction to it was…” Another sigh, and he summarises his own response at the time. “Alright, well, yeah, damn.”

In fact, the Skulls team had anticipated a different response entirely. “We thought we’d get more hate for coming out on XBLA first and having an exclusivity period at all.” Mindful of this, “We had worked so hard to bring down our [Xbox and Windows 8] exclusivity period to the point where we knew it would take us longer, work time, than that period [to bring the game to other versions of Windows] and sure enough it did. We thought ‘ok, that should be good – people will have to wait a little bit, but it shouldn’t be that bad.'”

Instead, they found themselves fighting a more unexpected fire. “We learned a lot about how to phrase that sort of stuff. Like, we tried really hard not to say ‘Windows 8 exclusive’ but that was inevitably the line in publications.” Including here, where staff and many (but not all) readers alike were highly dubious about Windows 8’s attempts to brute force a touch interface onto a desktop PC.

The promised Microsoft money did eventually arrive, but “we’re sort of at the end of that now. The funding was to complete the game, we tried to scrape and save and now Jake at 17-BIT’s working on the next thing, that’s kind of going on some level. But my bank account is empty.” He laughs again, one of those laughs that starts hearty but goes on just a couple of seconds too long and sounds very different by its end. Nonetheless, the team had been prepared for this outcome even if they’d desperately hoped it wouldn’t happen. “We knew there was a pretty decent risk that we wouldn’t make any money back on the consoles and Microsoft versions, but we would get the ability to finish the game. That was the main draw, and now we have all the publishing rights for other platforms and hopefully we can start surviving a bit better.”

And so to Steam. Fortunately for the Skulls team, they don’t have to run the Greenlight gauntlet as a final insult. “We were talking to Valve right at the same time we were talking to Microsoft, just trying to secure everything according to the plan. So we had that sorted perhaps before Greenlight was even a twinkle in Gabe’s eye.” What if that hadn’t been the case? “It would be more challenging, especially like switching gears to sort of uber-marketing. Not PR like [adopts amiable mumble] ‘hey, we’re on Steam, we’re launched.’ It would be much harder for sure.”

Hindsight is 20/20 – so knowing what he now knows, what would he have done differently? “I personally would like to go back in time and kick myself in the balls. I’d just like to have that year and a half of my life back.” That hearty to forlorn laugh again. I feel bad for him, and I can’t help but tell him that I think it’s going to be OK now they’re on Steam, available to all PCs. I’m not the first to do so. “People keep telling us “oh, you’ll do fine.” They told us that on Xbox, now they tell us it about Steam and I’m ‘oh, I want to believe you, buuuut…'”

That said, the current situation is, in a way, still part of the original plan. “Our goal was sort of console and PC combined. Not just to sell more units, but more that we wanted more people to play the game, which would help set up our next game where people would have heard of it, build an audience. I mean that’s true, more people will have played it on console, but I don’t think that affects the Steam release one way or another. People will have heard of it already or they’ll hear about it through [this interview] or somewhere else. So it’s still hard to tell if the strategy will plan out.” Other, as yet undisclosed, platforms are planned. I don’t think I’m being too speculative to observe that iPad would be a great fit for the game, but of course getting noticed on the App Store is a whole new, brutal meat market.

For now, all eyes are on this week’s Steam release, and what Borut feels is “the definitive version. There are new levels, a new character, the multiplayer is there and async multiplayer will work across all future platforms.” The Microsoft platforms remain “their own little ecosystem” that no other platform can play against, but the Steam release and whatever comes later are in theory able to buddy up without issue. The new mini-campaign, afforded an opportunity for the team to try something new, too: “We wanted to experiment a bit, so in those levels, and just those levels, you’ll actually have regular progression. You start and you can buy a certain amount of units, and then you can take them through the whole levels, and everyone stays with you but anyone you lose, you lose.

Out of all this mess, can he still feel fond and proud of the game he helped make? No question. “I’ve played the game throughout development, and always really enjoyed playing it. I would play it after a late night at work, and just the depth of the strategy, especially in the multiplayer… I still play the multiplayer online, and there’s just a lot of variability to the situations and the strategy. You’ve really got to stay on your toes, a match is never just you losing or you winning for many minutes. I’m really happy with the system design and how it turned out, and how much depth we get from something which looks pretty simple.”

I agree – I think it’s a fantastic little high-speed strategy game that does an awful lot with relatively few elements, and keeps up steady wit throughout. While I was always among those who raised an eyebrow at going Windows 8-only on PC, I’m glad it’s finally open to everyone. “Now it’s just a matter of getting more people to play it,” says Borut, nervously. I mumble again that I’m sure everything will turn out just fine now. I hope I’m right.

Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-a-fide Edition is out in full on Steam in July and preorders are open now, granting immediate access to a beta version. It’s also in the Windows 8 app store, but yeah.


  1. PatrickSwayze says:

    I hope the Titanfall guys are reading this.

    Seriously WHY do PC devs keep doing this to themselves hmmm?

    • Psyke says:

      Did I miss something and Titanfall is going to be Win8 only?

      • fish99 says:

        Thankfully, it’s not a Win8 exclusive, but there was a rumour going around that it would be.

        • eliza321 says:

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      • Canisa says:

        IIRC, Titanfall is indeed Windows 8 only.

        • Sian says:

          You certainly do not recall correctly. A simple Google search would’ve told you that.

    • trjp says:

      Developers are just seeking a secure source of funding – it costs a LOT of money to make a game and having some money BEFORE you finish it is just desireable.

      A big company like MS promising money and support is hard to refuse – they employ loud, forward, encourating and enthusiastic people to generate this business – they draw you in with promises that they often have little intention of keeping because “the bureaucracy” gets in the way.

      Sometimes you have no choice tho – most people cannot afford to self-fund a project and those who can often have the good sense not to.

      For every ‘indie developer gets rich’ story there are 1000 indie developers who are going bust/earning less than they would serving burgers,

      Don’t forget that.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Somebody should invent a way that these developers could jump-start their own projects…

        • Hmm-Hmm. says:

          Kick them into gear, so to speak?

          • c-Row says:

            That would be a start.

          • tormos says:

            er, i suggest that might be risky

          • Corb says:

            er, I would suggest less risky than doing a windows 8 exclusive stared almost 2 years ago that causes you to become bankrupt when you could instead pitch your idea to the public and see if anyone even wants your game before you’ve gotten too invested financially and can still abort it when the kickstart goes belly up and move onto another idea people might like better….

        • trjp says:

          They did – after these guys made this decision I suspect

          and it’s not ideal – a publisher will safeguard a project with a much less prescriptive approach than Kickstarter/IndieGoGo offers. There you have to ask for X monies in return for Y things but creative projects don’t work like that – at least they don’t always…

          Publishers do more (well, they’re supposed to) but demand more in return.

          The only mistake here was dealing with a company noted for not keeping it’s promises and not employing people who have any fucking clue what they’re going. Their culture is one of blind obedience to the crazy guy leading them – which works from the floor upto the CEO’s office, the CEO being the craziest man alive (and also the most clueless).

      • malkav11 says:

        At this point it seems fairly clear that if your choices are “make a deal with Microsoft” or “make something else” you should pick the latter. In particular, while other publishers may want you to bring your game to consoles and/or mobile devices, they’re not going to specifically shackle you to some of the lowest performing markets for indie games currently available and force you to pass up mainstream PC and iOS development, which are the very best performing markets for indie games.

    • kwyjibo says:

      The Titanfall guys should have lawyers coming out of their arse given how the company came into fruition. I’m fairly sure they know what they’ve signed.

  2. GeminiathXL says:

    I have patiently waited for this day. Purchasing as soon as I get home.

    That said: Dear devs: Don’t you ever, EVER, do that again. That is all.

  3. Caesar says:

    It was obvious that SotS would come to Steam at some point but it seemingly lacks a dog. And rifles. Got ghosts tho.

    • elderman says:


    • Eschatos says:

      That acronym’s already taken by Sword of the Stars. You’re gonna cause a lot of confusion if you keep using it for this game.

      • MattM says:

        Disney won’t release Song of the South on DVD, I’d be surprised if they put the movie out on steam.

        • MacTheGeek says:

          Maybe they could collaborate on a remake, with kindly Uncle Gaben singing songs and telling stories about Brer Steam’s struggles against Brer Origin and Brer GFWL (pronounced “ga-fool”).

      • vecordae says:

        We could always call it SkotS, I guess.

        Or we could rename Sword of the Stars to “Martin Cirullis and Arinn Dembo’s Egos Presents: Magical Dolphin Science Jamboree in Space” or MCADEP: MDSCIJ” Surely that rolls eloquently off the tongue.

  4. bitbot says:

    Found a bug in your text, in this part:
    “they’re not buying games for than a dollar or two dollars.”

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      I’m sorry Dave I’m afraid I can’t do that…………..

  5. PopeRatzo says:

    This here is what you would call a “cautionary tale”.

    If you lie down with Microsoft ghost dogs you will wake up with a big herpes sore on your lip that will hurt like hell when you eat chili.

    • Jekhar says:

      I’d say this includes any big publishers, especially those trying to confine you to their preferred platforms.

  6. Chalky says:

    A fantastic article, really interesting. I guess the lesson here is to avoid letting something as large as microsoft take control away from you, no matter what they promise.

  7. Teovald says:

    Wow, that’s a real mess. Porting the game to as many platforms as possible (MacOsX, Linux, Android, iOS) seems to be a sensible goal right now to get some much needed cash but that early focus on Xbox might be an obstacle to this..

  8. Frank says:

    Wow. I followed SotS on their blog from very early on and was expecting them to have at least as good an excuse as the FEZ crew (who argued that the influx of money really allowed them to make the game they wanted to).

    But this just makes them sound foolish, with no sense of how other indies have been successful. Borut’s skeptical about Steam? And they “didn’t really care if nobody bought it on the PC”? Really? They should have hired a real publisher to help them with business decisions and PR. I think that unless they’re shutting down, this sort of an interview (however admirable for it’s honesty) is a mistake. I have much less sympathy for their situation now.

    EDIT: Oops, as Malibu Stacey pointed out, I misread that quote in my head. It’s clear Borut was talking about caring more about “PC sales” in the sense of Windows 8 sales. Mea culpa.

    • lowprices says:

      I think that they’re not so much skeptical of Steam as skeptical that having their game on Steam means everything will be alright from now on. Even though it means a wider audience, and is better at highlighting promising games than say, the iTunes app store, it’s by no means a guarenteed success.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      To be fair to him you are butchering his quote. It actually says

      We were always “well, it’s going to come out on Steam later” to ourselves, we didn’t really care if nobody bought it on the PC.

      where he’s referring nobody buying the Windows 8 version.

    • hatseflats says:

      I agree, I don’t understand either. How could releasing as a Win8 exclusive possibly work out better than not being exclusive? They got some backlash, but without it, you’re still betting your cards on a new OS which is unlikely to gain more than 25% market share in one year (and much less in case of Win 8). If people don’t like the OS, then you’re screwed, and backlash may be expected beforehand. But even if you don’t see that coming, where’s the benefit? And why focus on tablets?

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        In the article they talk about how they thought that being able to ride on the wave of MS’s tablet launch would be very lucrative. They were hoping that people who had just bought the new tablets would also buy Skull of the Shogun.

        Basically, they were targeting Win8 for the tablet’s market, not for the OS’s market.

        When they mention, “we were always ‘well, it’s going to come out on Steam later’ to ourselves, we didn’t really care if nobody bought it on the PC,” they make it a bit clearer that Win8 was more about the tablets than about a proper PC release. They planned to release on Steam later, for a proper PC release, and targeted Win8 because that was the OS that was going to run on the MS tablets.

        Also, why tablets? I think it’s because of two things: 1) tablets are selling like crazy and have a massively growing market share, and 2) tablets also share much of the same gaming marketshare as mobile gaming, which can net some mega-bucks if you make a big enough splash.

        Potentially, a well-made, tablet-focused game that gains enough popularity would make a fortune. It’s just the matter of capturing that audience. As they said in the interview, either people on Win tablets didn’t want to buy games, or they didn’t want to buy games for more than $1 or $2. Personally, I think it’s the later of those; that people typically don’t want to pay more than $2 for a mobile game. From what I’ve seen, the mobile market is very lucrative, but also extremely fickle.

  9. HisMastersVoice says:

    Stupidity is the only word that accurately describes the whole thought process behind the deal with Microsoft.

    I have no pity for stupidity.

    • KingCathcart says:

      Having met Borut back at the RPS Meet-o-chat in 2010 I can attest that he certainly isn’t stupid and is in fact a very nice bloke.

      You have to remember that things where very different back when the deal would have been made. Now, with the perspective afforded by Kickstarter, Greenlight and the anecdotes seen in ‘Indie Game the Movie’ it’s easy to criticise.

      I suspect that back then, without that foresight, the Microsoft Exclusive and XBLA opportunity would have seemed a sensible route especially in the context of being part of the launch of Microsoft’s next big OS and their first proper hardware launch since XBox 360.

      Give ’em a break – they’ve clearly learn’t their lesson and have been kind enough to share their experience so others can learn from it. And it is still coming out of Steam after all anyway.

      • HisMastersVoice says:

        There are multiple phrases in this very interview that show the devs knew back then this isn’t a good idea. The whole thing rode on spit, grit and hope.

        “‘(…)being well aware that getting into bed with Microsoft was unlikely to be a mutually comfortable experience.”


        And I’m not calling Borut Pfeifer stupid, I’m calling the deal with MS stupid.

        • pistolhamster says:

          Thats just gaming the semantics, you’re calling them stupid. That is the essence. And you have no pity for them. Then Cathcart disagrees, and quite well argued as well. If you are going to go back on your words, at least backtrack fully and with grace instead of this “But I REALLY meant the something not the other thing.”

          • Hmm-Hmm. says:

            Well it is rather stupid, wouldn’t you say? I wouldn’t phrase it that way myself, but the dev in the article pretty much admits to that.

            It’s a shame it all worked out this way for them, really. Still, they did have it coming.

          • HisMastersVoice says:

            Okay, fine, that guy is stupid. There. feeling better now?

            And it’s not like I have to argue this, he admits it himself. He knew it was a bad idea and still went with it. How do you call someone like that?

          • MarcP says:

            “Thats just gaming the semantics, you’re calling them stupid. ”

            That is such a stupid thing to say. Everyone does and says stupid things at times, that doesn’t make everyone stupid. Intelligent people as god-like beings who can do no wrong exist in only one place: TV shows designed to appeal to actual stupid people.

    • pistolhamster says:

      I assume that you must be giving that bath room mirror of yours a stern, pitiless stare every morning then.

      • HisMastersVoice says:

        You probably think you’re clever, do you?

        • Koozer says:

          My god, he’s found you out pistolhamster! Retreat!

        • cawt says:

          Ah, HMV. Using self-aggrandizing words. To kick a dev while he is down. Over the internet.

          You’re trying so hard, I wish you could see it. It is beautiful, kinda.

          • HisMastersVoice says:

            No one is forcing you to care about my opinion, but when you do, at least try to engage it with a fucking point instead of trying to sound superior while saying nothing.

          • cawt says:

            D’aww. And now he’s pretending he didn’t understand. He’s so cute <3

          • HisMastersVoice says:

            Okay, so you chose to act like a pretentious prick. That’s a surprise.

          • cawt says:

            Thanks, I guess? But in all honesty, I don’t think I am half as deserving of these kind words as you are. Feel free to take a take a second look at one of your above posts if you don’t believe me.

            What genuinely surprises me though is how little it took for you to abandon all pride and try to pass yourself off as my victim.

            Please do try and be nicer next time.

            Have a nice day.

          • HisMastersVoice says:

            I’d rather be honest.

            *edited out random aggression*

            Have a nice day too.

        • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

          “No one is forcing you to care about my opinion, but when you do, at least try to engage it with a fucking point instead of trying to sound superior while saying nothing.”

          Sorry, on the RPS comments section you’re at least a year late to see people engaging with points they disagree with instead of sounding superior while saying nothing. It’s irritating, but don’t worry – everyone can see when someone’s doing it.

    • JackShandy says:

      Hindsight is 20/20. It’s so easy to say “Well, I would have instantly known that Microsoft, an enormous corporation, would be so poorly organized that they couldn’t pay my studio on time.”

      • HisMastersVoice says:

        But they knew it wasn’t a good idea before they signed.

        Look, I would never blame anyone for simply making a bad decision based on incomplete information. Taking a shot in the dark and missing is very normal. But that does not seem to be the case here.

        And while I stand by my assessment that the deal was stupid, I do know the game is okay and I’ll probably buy it when it comes out, on Steam or elsewhere.

        • saluk says:

          They knew it was a RISK, they didn’t know at the time it was a bad idea. They may have had other options available at the time; but it seemed like their best option. At the time. Sucks that it went down like it did, but Microsoft is really to blame here. It’s not really fair to kick the little guy when he’s down.

      • Brun says:

        Hindsight is 20/20. It’s so easy to say “Well, I would have instantly known that Microsoft, an enormous corporation, would be so poorly organized that they couldn’t pay my studio on time.”

        I don’t blame the devs too much, but big companies are almost always burdened by some level of bureaucracy and Microsoft – even among large companies – is absolutely notorious (some would say infamous) for its lack of organization and the inability of its different divisions to work together efficiently toward a common goal.

        • Arathain says:

          Sure, but bog companies become big companies by being able to do fairly simple things like pay their contractors on time. I think it’s a reasonable thing to expect.

          • Brun says:

            I agree that not paying on time wasn’t really something you could expect, I was really addressing his comments on the culture of MS Studios and the general dysfunction he described (and lamented). MS’ internal politics and cutthroat, self-competitive culture are the butt of many a joke in the industry, and have been for quite such time.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            HAHAHAHA! Do you really think that? Oh man… This is almost as adorable as when people say that balancing the budget is the same as balancing their checkbook.

            Sorry, not trying to be a dick, but big companies get big by cutting costs and corners as much as possible to milk as much net gain as possible from each and every product. They get by on withholding payments from vendors until vendors begin to threaten legal action, then lowball the vendor, wait for the vendor to get mad again, and do it all over again, hoping that the vendor will just get upset and eat the loss rather than deal with them being a PITA. Now, you might think, “well, what do they do when they lose that vendor?” Simple. They get a new one, preferably with a yearly contract and most likely through a competitive bidding contest where vendors compete for the contract because it’s a huge chunk of money. It usually winds up hurting them in the long run, but most people go starry-eyed when they see big payouts.

            I can tell you, for a fact, the way a lot of big businesses manage to make so much money and get so big isn’t by being nice and paying out on time. It’s by pinching every single profit margin as much as they can, cutting as much overhead as possible, lowballing costs on everything, holding out payments hoping that vendors will get frustrated and eat the costs, and generally being as much of a tightwad as possible.

            Now, this isn’t true of all companies, mind you, or even of all big companies. However, if you look at the ones that are always expanding, always boasting record profits, and always boasting such massive return rates on investment, then you can bet that they’re cutting costs at every single place they can and in any way they can.

      • jrodman says:

        If you’re not aware that large companies never pay on time then you really need a business advisor instead of trying to go it alone.

    • borut says:

      Well, I think I made it clear – while it was a struggle to work with them, I don’t know that the game would have gotten finished at all without it either. Again, this was before Kickstarter’s popularity, back in 2010, when XBLA was a thriving marketplace as well. So if it’s stupid, and I’m of multiple opinions about it, it is sadly the sort of stupid that isoccasionally required to ship games.

      • HisMastersVoice says:

        While you can’t expect back patting and a hankie from me, you can expect me to do the one thing that matters – buy your game. Partially because you’re honest about the whole thing, but mostly because I heard you’ve made a good game.

        I may have no pity for stupidity, but I do respect and value good work.

        • HisMastersVoice says:

          Well then, let’s hope the game does well on Steam. It would be a shame if a good moral story didn’t have a happy end, right?

        • SaVi says:

          Sheesh, does this guy even read his own comments?
          Everyone can be a smart ass after the fact, you have no right to boost your ego with this sad failure. Taking a risk by itself is not stupid. This could have been a success story.
          Calling this a “moral story” is plain insulting. It is perfectly human one, and if you don’t understand that, than you are better of printing your gibberish on paper and post it on a wall in your own home instead of adding to the cancerous part of the internet.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Jumping out of an airplane with no parachute is not “taking a risk.”

            Drinking a bottle of arsenic is not “taking a risk.”

            Signing an Indie publishing deal with Microsoft is not “taking a risk.”

            In each of these cases, the result is a known quantity. Sure, people have survived falls from airplanes, trained their bodies to withstand poisoning, and had successful Indie publishing deals with Microsoft, but those are statistical anomalies.

      • shadowmarth says:

        Yeah… Back when you showed it off at Giant Bomb it was an instant buy. Then the second time you did it, it was also an instant buy. Then you made it impossible for me to buy and I wrote it off. This inevitable news was welcome, but came at a time when I had four other games on Steam I wanted to buy, and am really trying to save money. I was gonna pass it up, but for reals, this is a depressing goddamned story and I love your game’s idea, so just bought in. Keep making awesome games I guess!

  10. Solidstate89 says:

    I’m quite fond of most Microsoft products, and I’d say most people here are aware of my positive position regarding Windows 8, Windows Phone, etc.

    However, that being said, their Publishing arm, in combination with trying to attract and properly work with Indie games is nothing short of disgraceful. It’s been this way for years now and still nothing has changed despite such public criticisms of what exactly needed to change to improve said experience – yet all of it was shunned as the publishing arm just kept their fingers in their ears.

    Despicable. I hope he manages to fill up his bank account some with its release on Steam.

  11. Niko says:

    XBLA as the gateway to indie success is quite a silly idea. As we all know, there’ s only one true way to indie success, right, master race?

    • Strabo says:


      Wait a minute…

    • Tacroy says:

      Now we know that XBLA is not the gateway to indie success. That was nowhere near as obvious three years ago.

      I mean think about it – what if XBLA and XBLIG really did become the new “place to get indies”? SotS would have been in on that from the ground floor, which would have been awesome for them.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        It was actually pretty obvious.

        XBLA has been criticized and lambasted near since its introduction.

        • RobF says:

          Nah, definitely for a good few years XBLA was THE place to launch a game if you wanted to make any sort of substantial amount of money. Don’t forget it wasn’t until 2009 that Steam really started making a push for a substantial amount of content on the store.

          This is pretty much why most of the really big hitters of indie started there during the mid-late 00’s. Its erosion as a service and as a hospitable place for most indies to reside was far from overnight too. Not that it was ever perfect but it pulled the numbers. Big numbers.

          (There’s obviously a number of fairly high profile cases that didn’t pull the numbers too, natch)

          These things come, as is often the case, with a series of decisions and shuffles and staff changes and all the usual big corporation bullshit and they whittle away the service bit by bit leaving it only for a few select and usually already successful few to prop it up as if it’s still golden. Or y’know, relying on games signed during a period when it was a lot more rosy than it is now.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Oh for goodness sake! Stop calling it SotS! That’s Sword of the Stars! Find a new acronym, really!

        I got nothing further to add other that the small window when I was slightly interested in the game passed when I couldn’t play it. I mean, there are so many games and I have limited time. So either you hype the game and I buy it or I pass and don’t give a toss. This is firmly in the don’t give a toss area.

  12. John Connor says:

    Who didn’t see this coming?

  13. Seafort says:

    Never get in bed with MIcrosoft especially when you are an indie developer. They’ll suck the soul right out of you and then ask for more.

    I was one of the people that warned you about the windows 8 exclusivity and I guess I was right. You just don’t make an indie game exclusive to a new MS OS and think it’s going to do well. Vista and their exclusive games should have taught you that.
    Microsoft have shown their true colours over the last 2-3 weeks and I hope indie developers and gamers will be a bit more cautious when it comes to anything Microsoft.

    Anyway I’ve bought the game on steam and love it so far. Very humourous game and seems to be quite a fun experience. I hope it does very well on steam and any other platforms you guys can get it on.

  14. Continuum says:

    To me, the most bizarre part of it was that there is so little difference in how programs run on Win8 vs. Win7 that exclusivity makes zero sense. I have been running Win8 for a few months now and have had zero compatibility issues with anything designed for Win7.

    Aside from the obnoxious “live tiles” which I disabled in the first hour of using Win8, it pretty much runs just like Win7 on an upgraded version of more or less the same kernel as Win7.

    I’m not even sure how you could make it Win8 exclusive other than just making it specifically refuse to install in Win7 solely for the purpose of exclusivity.

    Who the heck makes exclusive deals against their own products? Oh, that’s right, Microsoft. Brilliant.

    • Strabo says:

      The Desktop side of Windows 8 is Windows 7 with some bells and whistles added and some driver architecture changes. You are right, there wouldn’t be anything to port in this case.
      However, they made the game for the Metro-part (which is what MS wanted to push after all), which is radically different from the Desktop side, completely different APIs, different environment, far less powerful hardware, far, far less things allowed for the program – sorry App – (which is why Metro Apps are basically mostly useless in a productive sense and why Office had to be done in the Desktop environment, which had to be ported over to ARM just for Office… a real mess). The game had to run not only on Intel/AMD-PC hardware, but also the Tegra 3, Atom and other pretty foreign hardware for good old Windows. Translating a Metro (WinRT) game to the classic, powerful DirectX-Desktop is quite a big task, I’d say easily comparable to porting the game from the XBox to the PC. And of course they had to redo the multiplayer part to work without the MS-version of Game Center.

      • pakoito says:

        AFAIK this was done in monogame with some touches, so it shouldn’t be a complete rewrite.

      • Isair says:

        Incidentally, this means the deal is actually worse than simply being win8 exclusive.

        I’m perfectly fine with the win8 that’s just win7 with a start screen. However, the metro-part and the store in particular, are utterly awful and removing them out of sight was the first step to making win8 usable.

        As a result, I haven’t bothered with Skulls of the Shogun despite the fact that I like the genre and I’m not technically prevented from getting it.

  15. fish99 says:

    “while XBLA has ceased to be the land of indie milk and honey.”

    Didn’t State of Decay just sell 500K copies?

    Surface was always going to flop, and everyone knew it. One windows tab that can’t run windows software, and another that can but is far too expensive. Then you have Win8 with a touchscreen interface no one (or at least, no gamer) wants.

    I’d love to be sympathetic but bad decisions have consequences. Surely an iOS/android launch followed by Steam was the way to go with this game. Anyway I’ll check it out when it finally hits Steam.

    • Erithtotl says:

      You have any idea how many games sell for the iPad? WAY more than sell for the PC. The idea that ‘gamers’ don’t want touch. Well maybe hardcore gamers, but in general, touch games sell VERY well.

      I am confused about the XBLA commentary though. You are right about State of Decay. It sold 500K in a week. The idea that you can’t make an indie hit on XBLA seems incorrect and sour grapes by blaming it.

      • HisMastersVoice says:

        iPad game pricing is not suitable for games like this. Even the 4.99 special pricing on Windows phone was way above what the usual iPad user considers to be reasonable. Not to mention the 9.99 for the tablet version.

        They’d have to design the game around massive amounts of microtransactions for it to be profitable on iPad and get lucky with press coverage to get people to notice it through the mountains of crap littering the app market.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        I’m sure their $12 game would sell by the metric ass-ton on iOS.

      • fish99 says:

        That comment was about sales of Win8 – i.e. it was predictable Win8 wouldn’t sell that great given that most of the devices it’s intended for don’t have touchscreens.

        Going Win8 exclusive didn’t make sense for this game (given that Surface wasn’t likely to sell). Like I said it should have been on iOS and android first (at a price point relevant for those platforms), or even steam. They were relying on XBLA sales, and to me a turn based strategy designed for touchscreens doesn’t seem a good fit for XBLA.

      • wengart says:

        State of Decay is a phenomenal game apparently and has sold very well, but that doesn’t change the fact that XBLA isn’t what is used to be. Back in the late 2000s it was one of the prime places for many indie games to be sold successfully. It hasn’t been that for quite some time at this point.

      • PikaBot says:

        The iOS gaming market is radically different from every other gaming market. You might as well not even count it for all the good it’ll do you.

      • Ninja Foodstuff says:

        The full version of XCOM got released for ipad today. $20. So we’ll see.

    • Nogo says:

      But Steam, Google and Apple don’t provide funding.

      It’s not like they were super excited by windows tablets or anything. They were running out of money.

    • RobF says:

      State Of Decay must have had millions of dollars spent on it. It’s not even in the same league budget wise.

  16. InternetBatman says:

    This kind of sounds like crocodile tears given that this developer defended MS in the past.

    • pistolhamster says:

      I think their tears are quite genuine. They defended MS assuming things would be good. Otherwise they’d probably not have made the deal. Well they were WRONG. And they pay the price for that quite literally. Seems very genuince does’nt it? Why the snide remark about crocodile tears?

      • MarcP says:

        Yeah, the tears are probably genuine now. Doesn’t make them any less dishonest and misleading before, which is the only way to explain how they acted, as you guys insist in the above comments they aren’t stupid. If they’ve been manipulative once, you might as well assume they’re keeping at it too, and playing the whole victimization angle, little guy just like us against big and mean corporations, to generate sympathy and hopefully boost sales.

      • aepervius says:

        In the past decade I kept hearing of innovator / concurrent of MS developing software/ game studio/indie whining that they trusted MS and were stabbed in the back or grinding in their bureaucraty. By now you have got to be ultra naive or stupid to think it will be any different. MS cares about MS only. For every dev which cry they did not get the best coop from MS and were tied in exclusive which were deleterious to their finance, I say cry me a river and call the whambulance. It is neither new nor unexpected from MS (which has an history of cheating, like the special code to make concurent program fail or not run, or binding IE intentionally to justify bundling it). You get in bed with the wolf, don’t complain if you get bitten later.

    • Strabo says:

      Hard to bite the hand that feeds you. Or promises to feed you some day if those 3421a-forms get filed before the 20th.

  17. somnolentsurfer says:

    That reads quite a lot like an obituary for a game that, as far as most people are concerned, isn’t even out yet.

    How extraordinarily sad.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Yeah it sort of makes it seem like it won’t work on windows 7 still.
      He says it’s available for everyone, though, but that’s not true.
      So will it work on Linux or Win 7 or XP?

      • pakoito says:

        It was developed on Monogame, so porting should be fairly easy.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          The game looks really cool, but this isn’t a Just Cause 2 upgrade-windows-to-play-it thing. This is not the game that will make me install windows 8, although I would love to play it on Linux or XP or 7.
          I’m assuming the Steam release is for Win7…

      • HorzaEdeo says:

        I just checked the Steam page for you Sparkasaurusmex. The minimum OS spec is Windows XP with Service Pack 3.

  18. kwyjibo says:

    Great article.

    “To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution… None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios.”

    Great quote. The lack of vision, communication and execution is so visible given the complete Xbox 180 fuckup.

    • Mr Bismarck says:

      ““To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution… None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios.””

      Hanlon’s Razor at work.

  19. Radiant says:

    I think that’s goes for any large organisation that’s considered evil.

    No one sets out to be a microsoft; it comes through years of corporate boardrooms and incompetence.

    • pistolhamster says:

      That and letting the Sales and Marketing guys run the company. The only thing company you should let a Salesman run is a store. And Marketing people are even more worthless if your company is by heart a Product Company. And that is why you see MS being so badly run after Gates ran off.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        [s]But Sales and Marketing bring in the money! Clearly they’re the most valuable part of ANY company![/s]

        Sales and Marketing are some of the only professions where misleading, deception, and outright lying are not merely culturally accepted, they’re job requirements.

        (ed: Stupid angle-bracket stripping)

  20. Gap Gen says:

    I hope they see more success on Steam. But yes, betting on Microsoft products hitting it big these days seems to be a risky proposition.

  21. RvLeshrac says:

    BREAKING: Developer who was warned repeatedly, and loudly, that making any sort of deal with Microsoft would be bad, then dismissed all of the warnings and critics, admits that making any sort of deal with Microsoft was bad.

    Who will be the next developer to step up to the plate and claim that all the bitching about Microsoft is “overblown”?

    • borut says:

      The point I was trying to make, and it’s difficult to make without getting into a few hours of examples, is that it’s actually worse than you’ve heard (like the not paying us on time). I think that’s partly because we went into it tentatively worried they were evil, and they weren’t per se. The thing about evil is that it’s predictable – an evil company (and there aren’t that many, most of them are financial institutions, Goldman Sachs etc) is *predictable*. Institional incompetence is *not* predictable. You don’t know what step in the chain is going to hit a random, month long, 20 person email chain roadblock, and it happened a lot more than anyone else had described (in part because of all the new stuff). So I kinda wanted to be one more public argument in the succession.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I deal with MS in various ways at my job and I feel your pain.

        Nothing like “we will have an answer within 4 or 5 days but this is high priority so the answer should be immediate”, turning into “what we meant was we would start formulating an answer in 4 or 5 days, give us another 4 or 5 days, but this is high priority so the answer should be immediate”. So then 10 days later when you finally get an answer dozens of hours have been wasted communicating back and worth and everyone waiting on hold for an answer that always “should be there immediately”.

  22. Tridus says:

    Super excited to see this get a release on Windows 7 so I can play it. The exclusive stuff was always BS, and it’s so unfortunate to see another indie suffer due to Microsoft’s bad publishing and indie policies.

    Hopefully the Steam version sells well and they can use it to get the money they need to keep developing.

  23. HunterZ says:

    Ironic that Microsoft published this as a Windows 8 exclusive, when the developers had to use MonoGame because Microsoft had abandoned XNA in order to avoid having to support it on Windows 8 and Xbone.

  24. Moraven says:

    I may have to get this while I wait for Banner Saga to finish. I played Factions twice but I prefer Async play with turn based games.

    Sounds like the new mini-campaign is Fire Emblem like mode. Perma death and unit progression.

  25. Moraven says:

    How many more examples we need of Indies being xboned by Microsoft Games Studio?

  26. Buemba says:

    The game’s still kind of low on Steam’s best selling list, but hopefully it’ll climb up closer to release.

    I hope they add a language select option, though. I heard some good things about the game’s script and want to read it in its original language.

  27. MichaelPalin says:

    Can you talk about indies when you have a publisher? Can you talk about indies when Microsoft is the publisher? It seems indie has become synonym with small game by a small studio.

    • onyhow says:

      Well…the thing about Xbox is that you need publisher, period, if you want to publish games on it, retail or digital…

  28. RProxyOnly says:

    All I get from this overly large article, about a company who don’t deserve the publicity, is “Aww, let’s be sad, poor them. :(”

    Really?.. Are you really expecting us to have sympathy for a bunch of asshats who collaborated with MS in an attempt to fracture Windows gaming and who actively sought to exclude most from playing their efforts, in order to satisfy MS’s profit margin and fill their own greedy pockets?

    So what? They got burned, big whoop. As if it wasn’t obvious something like this would happen, they even knew it themselves and yet persisted with their anti-consumer practices.. and I very much doubt they would be bemoaning their lot if their ‘strategy’ had been successful. They would have been laughing all the way to the bank, all the while saying “Fuck you, Win 7 users, lol.”

    So screw them, they got what they deserved… poetic justice, lump it.

    One thing has come out of this though… I’ll never ever even consider buying anything they produce in the future.. If they were to produce the hugest, bestest, shiniest, deepest game ever made EVAR, I’ll pirate it rather than than pay these twats a penny, and anything below this level I’m not even interested in pirating (You pretty much know you’re fucked when there are people who won’t even take your game off your hands for free).

    I’ll be keeping an eye on these guy so I don’t inadvertantly hype/promote/buy anything of their’s, even if they move to another company.. Can you spell ‘poison’?

    So yeah, fuck you very much. Lesson learned? Good, now piss off.

    Plenty of other devs in the sea.

    • onyhow says:

      “Thanks” for saying your stupid thought, “Mr. Perfect who can do no wrong”.

      Now GTFO.

      • RProxyOnly says:

        Tell you what….I’ll stay, you go.

        You may stay if you ever post anything in the future that has a meaning to it.

        Lol, “Mr Perfect, who can do no wrong”… Da Fuq is that supposed to even mean? I’m not the one making games and excluding their market. (Why wasn’t this an obviously dumb idea?)

        Middle Finger.

        ..also, by the degree my comment, butthurt you, it would seem… personal?

        I hope you are one of the devs.. I would LOVE to say ‘Up yours, buddy’ to your/their face.

        • RProxyOnly says:

          I’m impressed that only two comments from this were deleted instead of the whole thing, that deserves a nod of respect RPS.

          However, do you mind me asking why that comment and my reply were deleted? I’d have thought that my first comment would have been more a deletion candidate than my final one.

          • Brun says:

            It seems the “ZERO TOLERANCE, ZERO FORGIVENESS, ZERO MERCY, ZERO PITY” attitude is alive and well on RPS. Though I guess that’s not a surprise, it’s such a prevalent worldview for many (especially younger) people these days. Sigh. I weep for the future – how long until stepping one toe out of line means permanent pariah status, banishment, etc.?

            Philosophical musings aside, was there really a need to be so confrontational, and so, well, dickish? They obviously learned their lesson the hard way and regret their decision. Even so, I still don’t understand the magnitude of your reaction – OS or platform fragmentation is light years away from being the biggest problem for PC gaming. Do you get equally upset when a developer makes their game a Steam-exclusive, or is your hatred reserved for selling out to publicly-traded corporations (like Microsoft or EA) only? Honestly. This isn’t V for Vendetta, you aren’t making some kind of noble stand against “THE MAN” by treating developers (or ANYONE) this way.

          • RProxyOnly says:


            Maybe if we had a bit more of this then things would start evolving in the games industry, instead of buggy pos and bad deals for the consumer.. If MS knew we would react in the above way, do you think for a second they would have pulled the shit they did if it was going to directly and IRRETRIEVABLY lose them sales?

            The entire situation would be far better if the above was in effect… Piss poor second raters would fall by the wayside or get better at their job, and the market would be dominated by quality, granted it would be orders of magnitude harder to achieve anything under these circumstances, but that would automatically raise the face value of gaming.. there’s another ‘pro’ for you.

            Learned their lesson?

            Hardly. Their original plan didn’t work, so now they are falling back on plan B, release it to Win 7 plebs anyway… Their lesson will be learned when the Win 7 launch crashes and burns too.

            “Fragmentation miles away…”

            First off.. only because shit like this isn’t the norm.. do it a few more times, and it wouldn’t take that long to push out some ‘good’ Win 8 exclusives (a burst release of 4 or 5 is all it would take) if they really really wanted to,.. get them all working on each of their products in the same time period and it would take 2 years to introduce circumstances that would irretrievable cause schisms in the Win user market.. so hardly ‘miles’ away.

            Your Steam arguement isn’t even NEARLY relevant to this. That’s still open to the same wide market and only personal opinion intervenes. This was a concerted effort to block part of the market and force an OS change.. that’s just scummy.

            And the rest of your comment is just follow on with nothing to answer.

          • Brun says:

            If MS knew we would react in the above way, do you think for a second they would have pulled the shit they if it was going to directly and IRRETREIVABLY lose them sales?

            So you’re advocating that everyone simply stop buying things from a company if they do one thing to piss you off, one time? You’re seriously demanding that developer have an absolutely impeccable, unblemished, pristine customer service record before you would even consider purchasing from them? Do you even know how ridiculous that sounds? I can honestly say that if I adopted that policy I would have absolutely zero games to play.

            This industry would have died a long time ago if all lost sales were irretrievable, as you suggest they should be to “teach the big guys a lesson!”

          • RProxyOnly says:


            Are you being purposefully obtuse?

            One thing????

            It’s a fucking litany from ALL areas of gaming, with transgression after transgression being ignored or let slide, even some journalists telling bare faced lies as to the playability/suitability of games, with the big players actively courting and paying for this type of ‘reporting’ (HONESTLY, not making any parallels, RPS).

            The industry has turned into an ego wankoff, sucking at the tit of lies and misinformation…Too strong I hear you complain?

            The games industry is worth (quick google) $83 fucking billion by 2016 link to (wtf. knew it was lot, didn’t know it was that much) and it’s run NOT for the benefit of a greater gaming experience, infact that is usually first thing that is sacrificed.. but for cold hard cash.. and everything is up for sacrifice to that particular unregulated ecumenical god… Get it out the door, and lie to the consumer.. If you tell me you haven’t seen that often enough for it to have become uncomfortable, I’ll call you a damned liar.

            Lol.. if you think the suits would stop seeking profit even under those circumstance.. you are sorely deluded.

            As for bemoaning the ‘unblemished record’… unblemished on lying to their customers.. YES, unblemished on fucking over a certain part of what should be your audience for the sake of a different market, YES, unblemished on providing pure dross then not supporting it, YES, unblemished on the dross in the first place, YES.

            I shouldn’t have to point this out, but going by the rest of your ‘arguement’s I’m not so sure anymore….. Average or adequate does not equal dross.

          • derbefrier says:

            sounds to me your the one being obtuse. Your so obsessed with your ideology you refuse to see how the real world works and that people are not infallible and make mistakes from time to time. The test of a good company or man for that matter is not whether or not they makes bad decisions from time to time. Thats going to happen no matter how hard they try not to. Its just a fact of life(The best laid plans and all of that..). Its how they handle it afterwords. Hes simply trying to tell you that you are asking for the impossible. that your very black and white view of the world and how it works is something only the young and inexperienced can possibly believe has any real base in reality.

          • RProxyOnly says:

            For the record the only reason one has to make allowances for ‘The real world’ being so fucked up is because it is just yet another thing that ‘the people’ have abdicated power over, ignored, let slide and allowed others to take over and manage to their detriment.. so Macrocosm of the gaming industry right there.

            ‘People aren’t infallible, blah, blah, blah’…. MY WORD (and something else innocuous)…. you talk as if this was all a perfectly reasonable proposition that unforseenly went wrong due to circumstances no-one could predict.. Could you be any further from reality?

            They SET OUT to limit their game to those willing to upgrade to a new OS after a preposterously short time of the predecessor being released at the behest of a company with a vested interest in a different market and their own greed, and got screwed over in a move that came as a surprise to ABSOLUTELY NO-ONE.

            They set out, if not to shaft people themselves, then to be the proxy that would allow it to happen. Even the most stupid of stupid people can’t surely fail to see the inherent shit, scumminess of this action.. and to excuse it is even worse.

            You don’t come across as being reasonable, you come across as being a doormat. They KNEW that what they were doing was a fucking shitty thing to do.. read it for yourself, their confession is in the article, but they did it anyway…. Saying a big ‘Fuck you’ to people who should have been their audience, then months later after their epic fail, to come back and try to suck our dicks…. Those are not actions any responsible person should be making excuses for.

            No wonder the industry is trying to take our toys away (and give us a shit in a bag to play with) when they have people, like you, actively gathering them up for them.

          • Brun says:

            As for bemoaning the ‘unblemished record’… unblemished on lying to their customers.. YES, unblemished on fucking over a certain part of what should be your audience for the sake of a different market, YES, unblemished on providing pure dross then not supporting it, YES, unblemished on the dross in the first place, YES.

            Name one developer that you think meets this criteria. Restrictions: they have to have released a game and they have to have existed as a business for more than 5 years. The time limitation is there to make sure you don’t just dig up some random indie that was started in some dude’s basement last weekend. I want a REAL developer.

            They SET OUT to limit their game to those willing to upgrade to a new OS after a preposterously short time of the predecessor being released at the behest of a company with a vested interest in a different market and their own greed, and got screwed over in a move that came as a surprise to ABSOLUTELY NO-ONE.

            They SET OUT to obtain funding for their game and to get certified on consoles. Restricting the PC release of their game was a condition of obtaining both of those things. The interview makes it clear that they intended to release on Steam eventually anyway, which should tell you that they weren’t sold on Windows 8 – but they had to sing the party line until their exclusivity period ran out or risk losing their funding and support from Microsoft. They didn’t think “Hey, how can we screw over people who are on Windows 7” and come up with this. Their goal was to reach as many people as possible and that meant getting in on the consoles. Doing that meant delaying a Windows 7 release. Was it worth it? No, but I don’t think they were being malicious. Microsoft is the gatekeeper to the Xbox, and they demanded a heavy toll for access.

            And he thinks I’m being obtuse. Like I said, if everyone were as radical as you are the industry would be DEAD. No developer would be willing to risk stepping on some land mine and pissing everyone off.

          • RProxyOnly says:

            None of them do.. that’s my point. Have you missed the part where I advocate wide sweeping changes to the way things are now? Like ALL of it?

            They set out on a very particular path to get that funding and didn’t mind helping to stitch up PC users in the meanwhile.. Don’t morality and ethics play a part any more, I can state CATEGORICALLY I would refuse at the point of a very wicked tongue any dealings in such an underhanded way of doing business… I know what poor is, and I absolutely know for a FACT I would STAY POOR rather than compromise my ethics.

            Whilst being all nice and fluffy, that article is bullshit lies.

            Here’s another article from RPS last year stating that it’s either Win 8 or Win 7 and they are choosing Win 8… Win 7 is officially out of the picture according to them

            So a big round of ‘Fuck You’ to these liars, or retroactive rewriters of history.. whatever insult you feel more comfortable. with, and although I’ve tried hard not to sling mud at RPS, they don’t look very favourable in this either and it really does deserve an answer.

            link to

            I’d give the devs another black mark against their now piss poor, damaged beyond repair rep, but I feel it’s kind of redundant now.. kind of like pissing into a big lake of piss.

            …and PLEASE, if you want to retain an IOTA of credibility, don’t trot out “…But that doesn’t prove anything, they might just not have announced it..”

            Their own words make it PERFECTLY clear their intentions and anyway, there is no way on god’s green earth they wouldn’t have mentioned it at the time, had it been a plan, considering that it would have mitigated ALL of the damage.

            So someone is lying somewhere, either (unlikely) they lied to fuel the MS sales (which is REALLY bad) or they are lying now about them always going to release on Win 7 (which is slimy).. so they are bad or slimy, and if they are either, then they are both.. Which illustrates my previous posts quite adequately.

            And was RPS aware/complicit that it has ‘reported’ two contradicting versions of the same story? EDIT.. CHRIST ON A BIKE, both articles are by the same person.

            @Alex Meer, wtf??? :<

            @The devs.. I know you are reading these because I know you frequently use this site to post… So howsabout you show some balls or some backbone and answer this.. Surely I don't have to post these conflicting articles on your own forum?…. That would be really…. predictable. :(

          • Brun says:

            None of them do.. what’s your point?.

            If your standards are so high that you can’t even name a single developer that meets them you might want to step back and re-evaluate how you arrived at those standards. I would have thought this was obvious.

            Have you missed the part where I advocate wide sweeping changes to the way things are now? Like ALL of it?

            So sick of this “VIVE LE REVOLUCION” crap. You aren’t going to tear down the entire system and rebuild it in your image overnight. Nor will everyone agree with your vision (I sure as hell don’t). Like it or not the market has created the current state of affairs – and the market still has plenty of power to reverse course. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with the news in the past few weeks, but Microsoft itself received a very stark reminder of this fact at E3.

            @The devs.. I know you are reading these because I know you frequently use this site to post… So howsabout you show some balls or some backbone and answer this

            Why would they even give you the time of day given how dickish you’ve been? I sure as hell wouldn’t blame them for throwing you on block and deciding that they have better things to do than talk to a fucking maniac. You’ve made it clear that nothing they say or do could make up for their “transgressions” – they’ve already been convicted in the court of your opinion. At this point you’re just looking to twist the dagger so you can milk that sweet, sweet schadenfreude, or to vent your own frustration with the industry as a whole onto them. What possible motivation do they have to converse with you?

          • RobF says:

            “Here’s another article from RPS last year stating that it’s either Win 8 or Win 7 and they are choosing Win 8… Win 7 is officially out of the picture according to them”

            You mean Win8 or Win7 with GFWL. That last bit is the important bit. Devil/deep blue sea etc…

          • RProxyOnly says:

            Really Brun?.. I GIVE you material such I did and you don’t even comment on it.

            No point in addressing you any longer. I thought you were interested in an honest discussion but seeing you ignore/redirect the most salient points, the acrobatics you are pulling in order to avoid even admitting that I ‘might’ somewhere have a point is making me sick… Pure cowardice. Why did you even bother to reply?


            So if it’s devil and the deep blue sea/six by half a dozen..Then surely you see they chose the the one option that would screw their market.. why is that excusable?


            I wondered if you’d drop it, couldn’t risk me shitting on your forum? Don’t rule it out yet.

            What has 2010 to do with anything? That article is from 2012 and you make it perfectly clear that you have no intention of delivering on Win 7 at all.. and now here you are saying it was a plan all along?

            You are too right there’s no proof, can’t have proof of something made up on the spot.. IF it had been a plan all along I would have expected a “not at the moment”.. NOT a “never”. Your “Never” point is what this is all about, because that “Never” is what allowed MS to try to force an upgrade in a market that didn’t need it, and you were FULLY complicit in it, you pulled the same kind of shit the big boys pull, but guess what? You don’t have the rep to pull it off, one game and you think you can stitch us up with it.. LOL.. Fact is your company had one way of going, sucking the dick of the big boys at the expense of the your market.. and you failed, and now you are back with your begging bowl courting your original audience, and rewriting your previous statements as you go… I take my opinions and discussion from what can be demonstrably proven.. and the only thing getting proven here is what I’VE said.You made a decision that was harmful to the structure of PC gaming as a whole and your plan fell flat on it face, now you’re here with your tail between your legs and your hand out.. I hope you are proud of yourselves.

            You’ll make some money with this move.. but certainly not as much as you would have if you didn’t try and fuck us all over, hell, I might even have been a customer.. and it serves you right!… Plus you’re ALWAYS going to have me, reminding people of your dick moves cos I’m not going anywhere. I hope your loss of face/ruination of your rep (to me at least)/lack of monies was worth it.. oh, obviously not, because here you are. HA! Boom Boom!

            I don’t like it when ‘enterprises’ such as yourself play fast and loose with truth and ethics. We get it from every walk of life now right the way down to our governments, and if I can’t do anything to stop that then I’ll be fucked if I take it from my leisure and entertainment industry where one voice CAN be enough to bring you down, god love the internet (in somethings…) Don’t think for one second that I consider myself a ‘crusader’, if the internet has taught me anything is that people will fight against anything that affects their status quo, regardless of it being in their best interests, so I don’t do it for them… no, I do this for myself, because actions like yours, and you are certainly not the only one’s, leave a bad taste in my mouth. I may not (read probably not) get anywhere with this.. but do you know what.. I’m still going to do it.

            Oh.. just in case I ‘lose points’ for not being true to my comments.

            Up yours, buddy (hey, you came here..)……. moving on….

            @anyone who thinks I’m going too far.

            NOTHING gets changed with people being nice, you can be as reasonable as you want, but it accomplishes nothing. The only way to get things done is to be as loud and noxious as possible, it’s the creaking gate that gets the oil.

            Do you think MS would have changed their mind (and they’re keeping the camera, to me THAT was the most important gripe, but that’s not gone, NO-ONE has a right to put a camera in your house that can’t be turned off.. and if the console is on at all, then so is the camera, and yes you can turn off the console, but then you can’t use it, what use is that?… I wonder what kind of info MS will be able to give to the gov’t when they ask them of their info?.. oh sorry, I’m being paranoid, huh?) if the internet had said.. “Hello MS, I think you have made a mistake”, do you think that would have gotten anyone anywhere?.. NO.. people went ballistic, it was a shitstorm.. THAT’S why any notice was taken. So the next time you hear/read/see someone being a PITA.. remember, THEY are the ones who’ll get something done, not the ones downcrying their attitude, who are just playing into the hands of the status quo (whatever you want… nah, nah… nah, nah).

          • RProxyOnly says:

            ??? But ‘Exclusive’ was how the whole release was coached, there was never any mention of Win 7 later.

            Your answers are very inconsistent Borut… that’s certainly part of the reason I’m going so far with his.

            One minute it’s “We had to go that way for the future”, next minute it’s “We were out to milk/take advantage of MS (REALLY? you honestly thought you could do this?)” and all the while not giving a shit about your audience or how your actions impact them.

            I certainly understand you having a product and wanting to make the most of it.. but the fact is you wanted to eat you cake and have it, and the only way you could do that was through some rather rank practices, and now here you are after being burned, relying on the market you were quite happy to damage, and let me say here, had your practices being successful, you would have had a hand in damaging Win 7 as a gaming platform and that damage would have been irreparable…. DO YOU SEE WHY I AM ANGRY?

            You’ll NEVER have me as a customer and if there was any justice you wouldn’t have anyone else either and would have to start all over again with a different game. it’s just a pity that most people fail to look at the big picture, because this is ALL big picture stuff. but for the sake of my own sanity I’m not going to let this dominate another day, certainly not while arguing in circles.

            BUT know I will be following VERY closely what practices you and your team employ in future. So with every decision you make, you think of me, If I see more damaging practices from you, I will jump on you from a very high height, and what I have written here will seem like a love letter.

        • edwardoka says:

          I’m sorry, you appear to be on the wrong website.

  29. Joshua Northey says:

    You have to love RPS. The commenters are so reliable. After reading the article I was 100% expecting excoriations of the developers for soiling their hands with MS money while they tried to make the game, and boy did the commenters not disappoint.

    Angry chastising comments from people who

    A) Likely have never had to fund a project like this in their lives


    B) Seem completely oblivious to the fact that without MS funding it is possible the game wouldn’t have been completed at all.

    The world is not all pots of gold and unicorns. Sometimes people need to make sacrifices. Its easy to look at what happened and say “Oh you just should have gone bankrupt making the game and then hoped you made it all back on Steam”, but that is an extremely risky prospect. If someone wants to pay you to make a game and that is what you want to do professionally…well…you generally let them.

    That said Windows 8 is a piece of garbage.

    • RProxyOnly says:


      ‘B)’ would really have been a hardship for everyone, wouldn’t it.

      Your bankruptcy/Steam arguement doesn’t hold water either.. there are plenty of indies out there who have made profit, sometime VERY large, catering to PC only.. so it’s hardly a case of they ‘had’ to chase MS for any chance of a profit.

      …and for the record, I don’t really care about the ‘MS money’ side of the arguement, I’m more steamed (lol) at their arrogance in thinking it would be fine and dandy to participate in the further narrowing, of what should be, and is generally treated as by other pc indie developers, an open gaming ecosystem (Please note I’m not saying open OS)… especially at the behest of the big boys.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        “would really have been a hardship for everyone, wouldn’t it.”

        ??? What are you even trying to say here? Are you saying they are better off not making games?

        “Your bankruptcy/Steam arguement doesn’t hold water either.. there are plenty of indies out there who have made profit, sometime VERY large, catering to PC only.. so it’s hardly a case of they ‘had’ to chase MS for any chance of a profit.”

        You totally don’t understand my point. It wasn’t about if success was possible. It was about if it was likely/risky, and whether they had funds to go indie. But I can see this conversation is above you so nm.

        • RProxyOnly says:

          “Above me?”

          If you wanted to crap out of the discussion, you only had to ask. Running away whilst throwing insults behind you isn’t a very winning way.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      Double post.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      You’re right, of course. I’ve never had to make a game in my life. That’s not what I want to do, really.

      However, I have purchased a great many games and I distinctly dislike the way these lads did it. Be that as it may, you’re also right, of course that it’s not all rainbows and unicorn farts. That said, betting on an unreleased platform and XBLA seems a strange thing to do, hingsight or no. And if you can find an entity like MS that can fund your game, then sure, go nuts, but don’t be super duper surprised when it turns out that releasing for the 360 and bloody Win8, some of the most closed platforms aside from god damn Macintosh, at a price point that’s a far cry above the dollar the tablet consumers seem willing to pay, backfires.

      I do feel bad for these guys. Am I going to buy their game? No, not at the moment. Too busy with Kerbal Space Program and Prison Architect. Perhaps later, if I remember the game at a sale.

      Edited for a few typos.

    • Frank says:

      I’d be interested to hear the actual rationale behind the decision to go with MS. The format of this interview, with just excerpts from Borut, obscures it.

      Alec’s assessment is that “Back then, the Skulls team thought XBLA was the gateway to indie success”. And Borut says “We had something that they wanted, so we thought we’d take advantage of that.”

      I read that as “we wanted to cash in on our great game idea”, not “we needed the money to get our game to where it needed to be and saw few alternatives.” That’s why I’m less sympathetic than to other devs who’ve gotten in bed with Microsoft.

      • Frank says:

        Wow, that decision does sound a lot more complicated and drawn out than I was expecting. I’m sure you’re sick of thinking about it, but I think you’re right that it’s useful for other developers to know about you guys’ experience (and interesting/informative for consumers like me as well). Thanks for the reply!

        For what it’s worth, I was halfway through downloading SotS when I came across your reply (~75% now). Looking forward to trying it out.

  30. PC-GAMER-4LIFE says:

    They took money from MS to go Win 8 exclusive now they are going to Steam not sure what the story is here I mean they knew dealing with MS would not be straightforward & simple either.

    Its not like this game is anything more than a max price range of £2.99 product you can get better freeware from indies than this dated looking effort not sure why so much support from RPS

  31. Incision says:

    Yeah, I have not one iota of sympathy for these guys.

    Basically they cosied up to Microsoft and were complicit in their own demise by trying to enforce platform lock-in with a new Windows OS. That was not only fundamentally wrong – in a “don’t be evil” sense – it was phenomenally stupid.

    History shows how well that little idea worked for Halo 2 and Vista. IE: Not at all.

    I would’ve thought people smart enough to code would have wised up by now. Microsoft has market share based on inertia. They are getting comprehensively owned in every market except Office because they have never had to compete on the provision of value.

    Now those companies that do provide value – Google, Samsung, Apple – are absolutely destroying their market share in every arena.

    This should be a lesson to all developers. Not only are Microsoft monumentally incompetent in both an engineering and a management sense, they can and will screw you over without even pausing to think about it.

    In short, code for Steam or GTFO.

    • NSGrendel says:

      Coders code. If they were smart, they’d be owners, managers or publishers. Totally different skill-sets and attitudes.

  32. Spacewalk says:

    I like how that raccoon has bells where his testicles should be. That’s inspired.

  33. occono says:

    Despite his painful experience of working with them, Borut refutes any assertion that Microsoft are actually malevolent. “When people call Microsoft ‘evil’, while I don’t want to defend them, it’s kind of an undeserved compliment. To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution… None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios.”

    “To call this place ‘evil’ implies a clarity of purpose that I do not want to attribute to anyone involved.”

  34. occono says:

    Despite his painful experience of working with them, Borut refutes any assertion that Microsoft are actually malevolent. “When people call Microsoft ‘evil’, while I don’t want to defend them, it’s kind of an undeserved compliment. To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution… None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios.”

    “To call this place ‘evil’ implies a clarity of purpose that I do not want to attribute to anyone involved.”

  35. kodjeff1 says:

    I have to say, I’m taken aback by how vitriolic this comment thread has become. Sure, they made some mistakes – that, they readily admit – but to warrant such anger? Take a step back and some deep breaths people. If only we could see ourselves in third person when we act with such childish impetuosity.

  36. HisDivineOrder says:

    1) Person/Company commits crime againsit PC gamers (chooses Xbox Live and then Windows 8/RT/Phone over PC gaming in general) that if more developers followed in the footsteps would end PC gaming as we know it.

    2) Person/Company admits to knowing the problems and sticking their heads in the sand, sticking up for MS long after the problems were rearing their heads and afflicting them.

    3) Person/Company admits they actually knew it was likely to go sour ahead of the deal.

    4) Person/Company admits to knowing they were doing a “deal with the Devil” and that they tried to use the Devil.

    5) Person/Company suffers for having tried to use the Devil.

    6) Person/Company gains from having used the Devil.

    7) Now Person/Company wants to cry a little, sniffle a little, tell everyone how sad they are they aren’t rich from the Devil’s moneys.

    8) Now Person/Company sees everything everyone said was mostly right except that these guys aren’t evil–that would be consistent and visible from a mile away like they admit to thinking–just incompetent. How could they know MS would be incompetent? It isn’t their fault despite all the warning signs, all the actual warnings, all the anecdotes, all the backlash, all the cautionary tales…

    9) Now Person/Company wants your help to keep from going under and they want that by NOW going back to Steam where they originally had worked to secure a deal in the first place.

    10) These guys remind me of Peter Molyneux. They milk MS of all their moneys and once they’ve gotten all they’re gonna get, they leave for the suddenly rich waters of wherever is currently in vogue. I imagine when/if Steam failed to give them their moneys, they’ll go to iOS and complain about how Steam did them dirty and how only iOS is really a place that can help them out. That’s what happens to people who think of themselves as the victim in a scenario they engineered knowing full well they’d get screwed.

  37. Rubyace says:

    I have played the trial on my windows phone and I liked it but I don’t want to “seriously” play on my phone so decided not to buy it.

    All this time I thought this game was spin-off from Sega’s Shogun title but how wrong I was.

  38. tals says:

    Purchased this from steam on the back of being able to play a pbem style where you can do a turn whilst your opponent is offline. Looking forward to trying it tonight

  39. jrodman says:

    Sorry, the association with windows 8 exclusive is too distasteful to overcome with this agreeable interview. I’m irrational in the end like the rest of my fellow humans. I’ll have to give it a pass.

    Maybe given another year to forget and a drm-free release I might bite. We might find out.