Tim Schafer On The End Of Spacebase DF-9’s Development

Dwarf Abort-ress more like.

Last week Double Fine announced that Spacebase DF-9 development was coming to an end. The issue was that hundreds of features that had previously been listed as “maybe possibly” coming to the game were no longer to going to be delivered, replaced instead with the release of the game’s LUA codebase so the community could add content themselves.

People are understandably peeved. Tim Schafer has now commented on the game’s Steam discussion forum in response to some of the common questions about what happened.

Basically, it didn’t make enough money to justify the length of development they’d originally hoped for:

We started Spacebase with an open ended-production plan, hoping that it would find similar success (and therefore funding) to the alpha-funded games that inspired it. Some of its early sales numbers indicated this might be the case, but slowly things changed, and it became clear that this was looking like a year and a half of production instead of five or so. With each Alpha release there was the hope that things would change, but they didn’t. We put every dime we made from Spacebase back into Spacebase, and then we put in some more. Obviously, spending more money than we were making isn’t something we can afford to do forever. So, as much as we tried to put off the decision, we finally had to change gears and put Spacebase into finishing mode and plan for version 1.0.

It’s perfectly reasonable that Double Fine can’t and won’t work on Spacebase at a loss for an indefinite amount of time, yet it seems unreasonable to have gambled so highly with the money and goodwill of the game’s audience. In order to support a five-year development project with a small team in San Francisco, Spacebase would have had to consistently bring in money equivalent to the biggest Early Access successes; ie, “the alpha-funded games that inspired it.”

I understand that the recent announcement was a disappointment. It was for you, and it was for us. We wanted to keep working on Spacebase for years. But Spacebase spends more money than it brings in, and that’s just not something we can afford to do any more. Set up against the expectation of the game being in development as long as Prison Architect or Dwarf Fortress, it’s hard not to find fault in the game by comparison. But we continued to sell the game, and will continue to sell the game, because we feel that based solely on its own merits, Spacebase DF9 is still a fun, clever, hilarious, beautiful and complete game.

It seems as if that expectation of Prison Architect-style development was set by Double Fine themselves, both in their hopes for its funding success and in the development plan they initially posted online. If you list features on your development plan, then no amount of “maybe possibly” caveats will stop people buying the game on the hopes those features inspire. That’s why you wrote them on your public development plan.

It’s also worth remembering that for all Prison Architect’s financial success, Introversion didn’t need it to earn that much in order to continue development. That it earned more than their previous four games combined in ten months of alpha funding was a pleasant surprise.

Schafer’s answers end with:

We have stumbled awkwardly through some new territory with this game, and in terms of early access communication we fell short. But we are still proud of the game in the end, and are happy to have it on the roster of Double Fine titles. I hope you are able to reserve judgment on version 1.0 until it comes out, and then enjoy it for the unique and entertaining experience that it is.

I hope the finished result is a good game, but hope also that this acts as a reminder to people of how important communication is in early access, where whether a game is “finished” is measured in degrees.

Still, I can’t find it in me to be angry over this. I feel only sadness, cast down in the flood of remembrance. I weep like a child for the past. Sometimes things go wrong, so buyer beware. My rule is to only buy Early Access games where the game is already fun to play, instead of based on any future promised feature. I do wonder though if Valve at least should lay out better guidelines for these situations, beyond the disclaimer that sits atop Early Access store pages. Should early adopters have any kind of contract with the creator of games in the way that Kickstarter recently outlined in their terms of use?

238 Comments

  1. Bobka says:

    “Basically, it didn’t make enough money to justify the length of development they’d originally hoped for”

    I was going to say “Boy, am I glad I didn’t buy this!” but now I sort of feel bad.

    • BlackAlpha says:

      Don’t feel bad. Expecting a game to flourish while it’s not even finished yet, that is delusional. These devs already have some experience in the industry, so they should’ve known better. If your strategy is “get rich on Early Access or bust”, then you are taking a huge gamble. There’s a high risk the project will fail and your money will go to waste, unless you are also getting money from other (more reliable) sources.

      It’s not just this game, though. Many Early Access games have this problem. It’s why I stopped buying Early Access games because the developers are virtually never honest about the chances of the project succeeding. At least with Kickstarter the thing only kicks off when the required amount of funding has been met. But Early Access will start no matter what, even when the dev doesn’t have enough funding and/or the project is certain to fail. And that’s why I have a whole bunch of Early Access games that are sitting in my library, unfinished, forever.

      Also, judging how successful your game will be based on Early Access sales is ludicrous. Just mentioning it, in case the investors or the devs themselves pulled the plug due to low sales, which would be stupid because the game was far from finished and people are hesitant to buy an unfinished game.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        spot on

      • Dawngreeter says:

        Hopefully it comes as no surprise that everyone wary of buying early access games is wary for exactly this reason. So, yeah. Tim, people didn’t give you more money because they are afraid you might do what you just did. So, please stop making busyness plans based on make-believe money.

      • rpsKman says:

        Feel bad for the poor sods who still support DF like they are a gift from heaven.

      • Continuity says:

        This is the problem, they effectively put a concept demo on early access at a full game price.. then were surprised that it didn’t take off… there was nothing to take off at that point. Pre-alpha builds like this should go nowhere near early access.

      • Shadow says:

        Yeah, seriously thinking “okay, let’s start development and then see if we make enough money to get through with it” represents a major planning failure. As it’s been said, it’s a huge gamble in which you stand to lose not only money but prestige. I didn’t buy Spacebase, thankfully, so I’m not all that angry. However, I am quite disappointed that industry veterans would screw the pooch like this.

        There were other issues, like the steep price, lack of communication and infrequent updates, which if handled better could’ve saved the game. But it’s hard to recover from simply not having a solid plan.

    • gnodab says:

      Please don’t! That is exactly what they try to achieve with this passive-aggressive PR. “We would have loved to continue developing this game, but apparently the fans didn’t want us to…” This is just a cheap attempt to blame the people who were sensible enough not to buy a full price release, without any content. If anything you should feel vindicated, turns out it is always better to bet against DoubleFine, since none of their crowdfunded projects amount to anything so far.

      It is really sad. There aren’t many games which occupy a bigger part of my adventure gaming heart than Monkey Island and DotT…
      But I get the impression Tim Schafer is like this uncle you haven’t seen in ages, but he suddenly pops up at your parents and you have no idea why everybody seems so weary of him. You find him hilarious, he is witty, tells great stories and has this amazing ideas for new projects. Then some day you wake up and he’s gone. Turns out he robbed the place blind and hit the road to blow it all on coke and hookers. You are completely befuddled, but your parents just sigh and resolve that this time it really was the last time we let him in.

      I think I’ll stick to funding just one DF and that’s Dwarf Fortress. Tarn might need 20 years to get out of beta, but I’d bet my house on the guy.

  2. MOKKA says:

    Why haven’t they told their customers right from the start that the game’s further development depends on the amount of sales it generates?
    I’m not really mad at them for stopping the development. I’m mad at them for doing such a poor job at communicating their development process to the people who bought into their unfinished product.

    • moocow says:

      I agree they didn’t communicate it well, but from the RPS interview with them at launch it at least seems like this was their plan:

      “LeBreton: That’s why alpha funding makes sense for us. If you get that initial fanbase, then you can keep developing it. ”

      “But until then, it’s like we’re just alpha one, alpha two, alpha three – however long we can keep going, based on how much people like it.”

      • MOKKA says:

        I don’t think that mentioning this partially in an interview would count as “informing their potential customers”.

        If they were more clear, and with clear I mean “put a giant disclaimer which states that the amount of content added to this product depends on its commercial success during development, on top of your Steam/homepage”, then I think they would not be in this mess. Maybe some people would still be dissapointed, but at least they wouldn’t look like they were being disingenuous to their customers.

        • GiantPotato says:

          This is exactly why I avoid early access games. Every sale you get reduces your financial incentive to finish the game, and it looks like that’s what happened here.

          • RobF says:

            That’s not how it works. Every sale of the game goes towards ensuring the money is there to continue developing the game. Without enough sales, Early Access development isn’t possible. This is what Early Access *is*.

            So when the sales dry up, so does development. Pumping money into it on the hope that it’ll someday make enough sales again is how things really go to crap. It might work but it’s such a longshot that the potential to shit up everything is way, way too high.

          • GiantPotato says:

            I think we are agreeing on what early access is. “Every sale you get reduces your financial incentive to finish the game” and “when the sales dry up, so does development” describe the same behavior.

            So where is the incentive to ever deliver a finished game under this model? The better a game does during early access, the less likely it becomes that its sales will seriously increase after it’s released. So from the standpoint of a developer, it sounds like it’s better to always have 10 projects in a semi-permanent state of “development” rather than a single project that you intend to follow through with.

          • Continuity says:

            IMO early access should be for games that have most if not all of their funding, early access is not kickstarter, you shouldn’t be funding these games at the point that they’re being sold at a retailer.

          • RobF says:

            Well, part of the thing here is that you’re assuming that a developer would want to work on the same game forever and ever to bring the money in. Which, there are some games that people do want to do exactly that with and they’re the ones Early Access or alpha funding in general (or more clearly alt. funding methods across the board, see Dwarf Fortress and its donations based development). was supposed to allow to be made. But then people happened and there’s all these different things going on under the banner of Early Access.

            But yeah, there’s also going to be games in early access that the developer will want to wrap up and move on from. There are games that are there for a bit of beta testing, there are games that are there to genuinely get community feedback to improve before launch and not much more and all manner of different things here.

            Sometimes this will be because it’s reached the natural end and is where it should be or, unfortunately, in cases like DF9 where the sales can’t sustain its development any further. At that point, it’s sensible to cut and run before it brings everyone down with it.

            Generally though, no-one is going to shoot to keep developing a game just to keep money rolling in. Or at least, if someone does, they’re going to be the outliers here because people don’t tend to work like that as a rule, more so when they’re trying to get something they want to made to a certain degree of a vision out the door.

        • SurprisedMan says:

          In fairness, that’s not the only place they said it. They mentioned it at every step. The dev plan itself mentions limited time and resources and that they’d make the game for as long as they had the funds, they answered questions on the website to that effect and had an FAQ that said the same.

          They could, perhaps, have been clearer about the risks involved in Alpha funding, but certainly I never felt under any illusion that the game development could be that long uless it caught on.

        • Listlurker says:

          Agree completely, Mokka. That’s how I feel about what’s happened.

    • mouseclicker says:

      I thought that was the whole point of Early Access: you pay to play an early version of the game so the developer can use that money to finish the game. I think the poor communication was just the community’s poor understanding of what Early Access even is, despite Steam making it abundantly clear before you actually go through and pay.

      • MOKKA says:

        Devs can do this, but I’ve read several statements from developers who stated that completely relying on your Early-Access sales to finance the development of your game isn’t the smartest thing to do from a business perspective.

        As easy as it is to blame consumers. I still think that developers need to be held responsible, when they fail deliver on something they promised/advertised and be critized for it.

        • JiminyJickers says:

          Exactly, I only by Early Access games that are fairly complete already. If they rely on people buying a game before it is finished, then maybe they should have kickstarted it instead to see if the interest was there.

          I wanted the game but it seemed that it had a long way to go before I would buy it. It seems unlikely that I will now.

    • Shuck says:

      The thing is, this is basically how almost all Early Access games work. They’re EA because they need the money to keep developing the game, and if they don’t get enough money, they have to stop work on the game. It’s becoming a necessity because funding PC games is getting more and more difficult.

    • killias2 says:

      #biggerscandalthangamergate, though that’s not exactly a high barrier, haha. Some sort of scandal is always going to be more than “not really a scandal whatsoever.”

    • Listlurker says:

      I feel exactly the way you describe, Shuck,

      It’s not that they had to discontinue the development process which makes me angry (as a backer and a player). What makes me angry is — as you say — they should’ve told us right from the start that “This game needs to make X dollars by Y date in order for us to finish its development”.

      This was never done, and never even hinted at — the proposed future-feature discussions tacitly suggested that these were the plans for the development of the game as it currently existed.

      No one knew that there was a specific profit target which needed to be met before we would see the finished game. Gamers being gamers, it’s possible that some of us who really liked what the game was becoming, might have offered further money, almost like an impromptu Kickstarter.

      The small dev team were all hardworking, friendly, communicative sorts; it was clear that they loved this project too.

      As for Tim Schaefer and the Double Fine business folks, I don’t think there was any malice behind this decision — but there was a lot of ignorance, poor communication, and oblivity to the needs of the alpha supporters.

      “Bad form, Smee. Bad form”

      • El_MUERkO says:

        This. Total failure to communicate, I’d been keeping an eye on this waiting till it was more feature complete to purchase.

  3. princec says:

    The grim reality of the cost of developing video games is so very far removed from the layman’s understanding.

    • jezcentral says:

      That’s as maybe, but I was waiting for it to release as a full game before buying it (as is my right). It’s all a bit disappointing, and in my disappointment, I would like to make a glib comment about how this makes the triple AAA publishers demanding minimum sales for sequels, and gouging for pre-orders, seem quite reasonable.

      I love Double Fine. I love Tim Schafer, but good lord, if this had been EA, people would be saying “Typical EA” to each other, except with a LOT more expletives.

      • tumbleworld says:

        Honestly? F*ck Double Fine. They’re now in the Ubisoft bin, as far as I’m concerned. No more of their games unless people are raving about ’em two weeks after launch.

      • Bull0 says:

        Hang on… triple AAA… that’s AAAAAAAAA

    • Deano2099 says:

      It’s not the costs, there’s a fundamental problem with the model:
      “Spacebase spends more money than it brings in, and that’s just not something we can afford to do any more.”

      That’s a ridiculous standpoint for a games company. Because a huge, huge portion of the audience, I’m talking 90% plus, are only interested in playing a finished game. If the game pays for itself in development, where do all the post-release profits go? Some should be going into the next game. If they’d just finish Broken Age they should have some more income on the way. That said, maybe something like this was the plan, and that Hack and Slash just didn’t do the numbers they expected, and that was meant to help fund DF9.

      • Shuck says:

        “That’s a ridiculous standpoint for a games company.”
        But the alternative – the traditional way it’s done – is more ridiculous:The company spends a bunch of money developing a game that they aren’t sure if people want, then potentially (likely) lose a bunch of money upon release. The risk is essentially being put (more) on the customer, but that’s what happens when customers demand to buy games for only a few dollars, frankly.

        • Om says:

          You mean it’s ridiculous to invest money in the hope of making a profit? Because that’s got some pretty far-reaching implications.

          I also can’t think of many other industries in which it’d be acceptable to say ‘Well, we couldn’t cover our development costs through pre-launch sales, so we can’t justify finished the product’.

          • Shuck says:

            For small-scale game companies, there is no money up-front to invest anymore. This is partially because of changes to the market caused by the fact that PC gamers don’t want to pay reasonable prices for games anymore.

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        teije says:

        Yes, it’s a fundamentally unrealistic and unreliable model to expect to entirely fund the development of an unfinished game through donations. Partially maybe, using paid beta testing models (now called “Early Access”), but completely? – bonkers. Most software developers expect to get the majority of the revenue for their game after releasing said game as “complete”. And most people, even in this age of early access, still want to only pay for a finished game.

    • Baines says:

      The grim reality is that Double Fine has shown no ability to manage money.

      Double Fine, of all people, should have had an idea what it would cost for Double Fine to make a game. Except when Double Fine comes up short, we have Schafer explaining why the amount of money that they originally asked for wasn’t enough to complete the job. More than the amount asked for, really.

      As for the cost to make games, there is a steep divide between a for-profit business and devs following a dream. It is why Skullgirls wanted ten times the money that Yatagarasu wanted per additional character. (One could also say that same distinction is why Skullgirls has been delivering on its promises while Yatagarasu Attack on Cataclysm is still in development.) And it is why Double Fine, when given enough money to keep a small indie developer active, finds itself out of money before their game is half finished.

      Double Fine is honestly taking the worst of both. They have the expenses of a big/professional developer studio, but the lack of planning/scale of a fly-by-night start up. (Which is why people have been remembering the Bobby Kotick story of Schafer of late. People defended Schafer back then, but what Kotick said probably wasn’t wrong.)

      • Shuck says:

        “The grim reality is that Double Fine has shown no ability to manage money.”
        Yeah, sheesh, they keep insisting on ridiculous things like “paying their employees” and “keeping up on the office rent.” Don’t they know how to run a business!? /sarcasm

        • Quiffle says:

          Business management? What’s that?

        • Jdopus says:

          Are you amazed to learn that just “paying your employees and paying the rent” is not all that’s required to financially manage a company?

          Double Fine have failed to meet their budgets, meet their deadlines or meet the commitments they’ve made. If you don’t call that bad management I don’t know what you would call bad management.

    • Ashrand says:

      Yes and therefore you shouldn’t ask the laymen to fund it for you, or alternatively make it ABUNDANTLY clear what your expectations are in terms of income and the standard under which you will release the game, rather than demanding money up front with magical promises.

      From the Day Z early access page:
      “We strongly advise you not to buy and play the game at this stage unless you clearly understand what Early Access means and are interested in participating in the ongoing development cycle”

      wheras DF-9 ends with a cheerful:

      “Being an Early Access Alpha, there are bugs in the game and features we haven’t been able to fully develop yet. See below for our lists of Planned Features and Known Issues. Here at Double Fine we take transparency and the goodwill of our fans very seriously, so please let us know what you think needs our attention… and thank you for your interest and support”

      “We are desperately low on money for this project” is the kind of communication that might be covered under Transparency right?

  4. JarinArenos says:

    Double Fine and Tim Schafer have about as much capability for creating reasonable development plans as Peter Molyneux. This is a disappointment, but far from a surprise. Prison Architect could succeed because it was developed like an indie game; pinching every penny. Tim is still stuck in big-production-land, and I don’t think he’ll ever leave.

    • Drayk says:

      There is truth in that… Games developed by Double fine are just too costly. Look at Broken Age. I like the game, it’s pretty and the production values are top notched really good but the game is just too short for that kind of budget… and they had to cut it in two parts.

      When you look at what Larian’s has done with a 4million $ budget on Divine Divinity, or what Pillars of Eternity has to offer, etc… IDK but I think Double Fine development process is too expensive.

      • princec says:

        I think their processes are pretty much spot-on and par for the course, and that the money is going on pretty reasonably ordinary development expenses and no-one’s getting rich. That’s just how much it costs to make things, especially things of that quality. It’s all very well claiming to be able to do it on a shoestring but the people who work at Doublefine aren’t kids living with their parents.

        • shadow9d9 says:

          I will repeat what the person you responded to said. Broken age= 3 hour game that is so easy that even non adventure gamers can breeze through it vs Divnity=40 hour complex rpg with tons of layers and coop play under a very similar budget. Double Fine is absolutely incompetent with money and the value you get from them per dollar is absolutely laughable.

          • princec says:

            It is also totally subjective and thus not an issue anyone is really qualified to argue over.

          • shadow9d9 says:

            It isn’t really subjective at all. The best that you could argue is that Broken age might have a slightly longer length. The rest is fact. Facts= Nearly the same money. One game is a 40+ hour opus, built with the complexities of coop and continuously being updated for free. The other game is a short 3 or so hour affair, that was factually released as half of a game in the same amount of time, with the complexity of look/use on a handful of hotspots on each screen.

          • danielfath says:

            That’s not a fair comparison. It’s akin to saying – well MOBAs take 700-2000hrs on average and RPG take 40hrs, therefore why aren’t all RPGs that long? Different games have different time requirements. On average Monkey Island and similar game took around 8hrs, Broken Age is 3hrs for first half, so it’s not that far off the mark.

          • Ashrand says:

            Fair enough, but in the spirit of the game that is up on the newsreel, Doublefine haven’t developed a full game like Monkey Island, they developed half of a game on more of a budget than they originally asked for (and presumably expected to be able to develop on?)

            Given this news it is perhaps worth asking whether part two will exist at all, if it proves unprofitable to make?

          • DrScuttles says:

            Well the Broken Age Kickstarter hasn’t updated since July 9. If part 2 fails to materialise, then fair enough. But I at least want to see it all go down in the documentary which yeah, we haven’t had since July.

          • shadow9d9 says:

            “That’s not a fair comparison. It’s akin to saying – well MOBAs take 700-2000hrs on average ”

            I don’t think so. We are talking about one time through here. Completely fair comparison. MOBAS are multiplayer with the same maps, but different players, and usually no single player campaign.

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          tigerfort says:

          My personal uninformed opinion: DF’s processes are probably fine, but their project management and planning stink. They produce amazing fun unusual games – but every single one appears to come out both late and over budget, which suggests their expectations of what they can achieve with a given amount of time and money are simply flat-out wrong. There’s something of an impression that taking their existing project planning system and adding a stage at the end that just says “multiply all expected costs by 1.25” might resolve a lot of their problems.

          • princec says:

            I find a factor of 3 to be approximately correct for almost all projects.

          • danielfath says:

            Ahem:
            Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law
            Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

            I.e. if they said, we’re gonna need more time and they planned for more time. They’d probably need more time on top of that.

      • Bobka says:

        I think a lot of it has to do with two magical words that drive the price way up.

        San Francisco.

        • Moraven says:

          I want to see some small-medium sized dev teams (say, 7+ members in an office) succeed outside major tech hubs in the States. There are successful global software developers in smaller cities along with smaller tech hubs that are half the cost.

          Are these devs getting their money’s worth being located around others in the industry?

          • Cinek says:

            The only potential advantage is in having an easier access to qualified staff. It’s relatively difficult to get competent programmers or artists working in your company if it’s in a middle of nowhere. Large cities lure educated people. Small towns don’t.
            Other than that essential part – it pretty much doesn’t matter if you’re in a business of making games.

          • Bobka says:

            I honestly don’t think that SF is worth the apparently insane amount of money people spend to live there, but then again, I’ve never lived there. Maybe they pump liquid happiness into the water or something.

            As far as I’m aware, the US Northeast (the whole Washington-NYC-Boston area) seems to have a high amount of qualified tech workers (heck, MIT is out there), yet aside from NYC the cost of living should be lower than in California. Also, the Chicago area seems like a good bet, as does Texas; I feel like Austin-Dallas-Houston are having a tech boom recently. Outside the US you have Vancouver and Montreal as serious game development hubs (and even Vancouver is cheaper than SF if you’re not living downtown, as far as I know), and a whole bunch of places in Europe could potentially support game companies with skilled workers (England peripheral to London; the Benelux; and major German cities come to mind). I’m sure I’m missing even more.

            I’ll never understand the California obsession, personally.

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            teije says:

            Eastern Europe also seems a active place for game development. All you need is good internet, enough local resources in various coding/design areas, and you’re good.

            BTW, Vancouver is very expensive, even outside the core. Montreal is way cheaper – think that’s where the Clockwork Empires guys are. But frankly, any mid-size city in the US or Canada is doable in North America, and way cheaper cost of living than Vancouver/SF.

          • jonahcutter says:

            @Bobka

            It ultimately depends on what you value, but SF is a great, cosmopolitan city. It’s absolutely packed with diverse cultural elements. Food, art, theater, film, bars/clubs, sports, tech, sex. Whatever your bent is, it’s there, there’s plenty of it, and it’s not all that far away.

            It’s an excellent place to live. But it can be pricey, depending on how large you live.

          • Moraven says:

            The crux of it all is that us gamers support a Double FIne’s ability to have a diverse lifestyle!

            I can understand ease of attracting talent. Being in a less than 100k city in a more rural area, I know some positions around town tend to linger due to trying to attract out of town talent. There is a lot of locals that stay after uni but the city and business are always looking to grow and you have to look outside at some point.

            Also there must be something about making more money despite cost of living making salaries close to equal from two regions.

        • Shuck says:

          I’d be very surprised if many (or even any) of Double Fine’s devs can afford to live in S.F. (Unless they found cheap housing long before the current real estate bubble.) I’ve worked at SF-based games companies before, and we all commuted (some distance) to work. No one was being paid enough to afford to live there.
          Comparing the cost of making a game in one country to a completely different country (with a very different social safety net and cost of living) is meaningless. And the question, “why don’t they move the company to another country?” is too stupid to be worth addressing, frankly.

          • StranaMente says:

            To be fair, in a recent twit, Schafer himself said that they pay about $10k each person a month (see link to twitter.com). Now, that to me sound like a lot of money, and from what I heard is about right for living in SF area.
            That said, it still sounds like a bad business plan.

          • Shuck says:

            @StranaMente: That’s total costs per employee (benefits, office space, etc.), so it’s in line with industry costs elsewhere. and only about half that is salaries. (And not remotely enough to live in S.F.)

          • Geebs says:

            And the question, “why don’t they move the company to another country?” is too stupid to be worth addressing, frankly.

            Speaking as somebody just about to leave their country of birth for career reasons – why is that not worth discussing, again?

            Even so, that’s not the question. “Why not move to a cheaper location in the same state if all of your employees are going to be commuting anyway? ” is pretty reasonable really.

          • Shuck says:

            @Geebs: There’s a world of difference between relocating a company (or an entire industry as some are implying) and choosing (and being in a position) to relocate for a better job. Don’t even go there.
            Based on their costs, they’re not (remotely) paying their employees enough to live in S.F., so moving their office to another part of the Bay Area makes very little difference in costs, frankly. There are also certain advantages to being located in S.F. even if employees are all commuting in (especially if they’re coming from different parts of the Bay Area – SF is a public transportation hub).

    • Clavus says:

      Then again, Double Fine doesn’t really specialize in cookie-cutter games and sure-fire successes. They’re bound to stumble from time to time. But if they finish something, it’s often something quite unique.

      Through Kickstarter and Early Access, that risk of failure is now partially shared with the audience. Not necessarily bad but the audience should be well informed before they put money in.

      • melnificent says:

        Double fine have said this half complete game is finished….
        Pretty much like they seem to have done with Broken Age (part 2 is coming honest).

        • Stellar Duck says:

          What the hell!?

          I just looked it up because I assumed, stupidly it seems, they had released part 2 long ago.

          Thank Christ I haven’t bought the game when I was considering it on sales.

          I don’t know how they get away with that shit.

  5. wilynumber13 says:

    One reason I never bought this was the price. 30 bucks may have been a good price for the game as they envisioned it, but what was there from videos I saw was probably worth a third of that. Perhaps they should have took a cue from Mincraft and sold the game for reduced prices early on, and then upped the cost as the features filled in.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      Yeah, that is a good point.

    • jjman says:

      Sorry, but it’s not worth the $10 I paid on sale at the beginning of this month. We shall see how I feel after 1.0…

      • Stromko says:

        So as more features were added and the game became more complete, they lowered the price of entry. That really make sense, except it doesn’t. That’s calling a game old news and not as valuable as it once was before it’s even finished, it’s giving up by degrees.

        I’m wondering if Tim Schafer is just lying out loud though. TotalBiscuit said that the people who paid into DF-9 outside of KIckstarter and Greenlight, on services where they expected to get their money back, in fact did get their money back already. Something in the range of 400,000$. That’s not money going back into the game, that’s money being paid back to investors.

        If that is true, they made a choice between letting down their investors or letting down their customers. They chose the latter.

  6. Cei says:

    Basically it smacks of poor management by Double Fine. Promote a game to the public, but bank the development of said game on future income from sales that require it to be a run away success? Sorry, that’s a stupid idea, and no wonder they weren’t up front about it.

    • Robstafarian says:

      That “stupid idea” you refer to is how video games—among other creative works meant to be mass-market entertainment (e.g. books, movies, and music)—are published: they have been published almost exclusively that way since their inception. In this century, as I assume you are aware, virtually every publisher-directed entertainment industry has seen its major powers challenged by exactly the sort of quasi-direct consumer access Double Fine tried.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I must have forgotten the part where all the films I’ve seen asked me to pay for them before they were released, and cancelled if I didn’t. I had this crazy notion that the publishers sunk some money into them for the hope of later returns on that investment. And that this whole mechanism was why publishers could be somewhat meddling, conservative types, and were often holding a lot of different irons on the fire so if one flops their losses are covered by other successes.

        • Robstafarian says:

          You have a valid point, one which Cei did not make. I was replying only to what Cei wrote.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Cooper says:

    Making games (or films or records or, well, pretty much any entertainment medium) used to be all about “spending more money than was brought in” until it was released for sale. It’s why publishers exist, so they took on that risk. (And their decisions on that risk the reason they’re so vilified).

    The idea that games can somehow be financially sustinable based on early access is an attitude that simply moves all the risk involved on to the customers. Customers who have no legal safety net.

    The result is DF can make vague promises, meet a fraction of them, then close the project with a minimum of damage to themselves.

    Publishers may have been holding games back, but there’s no bloody way DF would have got away with a half-arsed set of plans and then half-arsed delivering on them if they were stuck in a publishers contract.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      “The idea that games can somehow be financially sustinable based on early access is an attitude that simply moves all the risk involved on to the customers.”

      Seems like most of the risk is on the developers, who often stand to lose a job at the end, or at least a wasted year or two. Whatever risk there is to consumers is spread out over a huge number of individuals, so the most anyone’s going to lose is a couple hours’ wages on that vapourware they bought.

      • Baines says:

        Double Fine are cutting their losses, though. They are spending the final month doing some measure of bug fixing, slapping a “This is a finished complete project” label on the game, and will presumably continue to sell it for full price.

        Heck, Double Fine even put the game on sale on Steam right before announcing that they were going to stop working on it, in an attempt to rake in a bit more money on a project that they had to already know was going to get killed. (Even if Spacebase DF-9 was a sales success there, it would have only have bought a few more months for a doomed project. Maybe enough time to make it to an almost equally unfinished Alpha 7 instead of being canned at Alpha 6e. And those sales were based on promising customers a game that wasn’t about to see its development killed.)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Indeed.

      And it’s one hell of a weasely non-apology. Lost a lot of respect for Schafer today.

      • shadow9d9 says:

        Why now? This is nothing new. The guy has been taking peoples’ money while being unable to deliver for a while now. He purposely waited to tell people about how Broken Age ran out of money and only made half a game until after the kickstarter was done from his next game!

    • Hypocee says:

      close the project with a minimum of damage to themselves.

      This particular part, I dunno, I see as a positive. Under the publisher lock-in model, the studio would probably have disintegrated in the face of years of crunch negotiations, maybe a lawsuit or two. It seems like a good thing that a project that’s not working as planned can be cauterized, allowing the studio to continue work on other stuff. I’m happy to take an occasional burn to continue to enable fractional risk. It may be an age thing.

      To me it’s the promises (with no timeline or priority ranking), and the lack of any sales numbers updates or other warning as the project was known to be in straits for months, that stink in this case.

      • Baines says:

        Maybe seeing Double Fine go under wouldn’t actually be a bad thing.

        It isn’t good for people to lose their jobs, but Schafer needs to learn responsibility and how to manage money. Maybe seeing Double Fine go under might actually start to hammer that message home.

        With Double Fine alive, it just means we’ll see more stories like this. Double Fine will continue releasing games where even the best are a bit of a mess that falls short of greatness due to a lack of focus, and the average and worst are just half finished projects.

        I’ve seen people already saying that they are wary of Gang Beasts because Double Fine is now the publisher. Having Double Fine as your publisher at this point might actually be a detriment to your project.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Behold the black heart of gamer entitlement.

          Just to be clear: You literally just said a studio should go under because you think the studio head needs a lesson.

          • Baines says:

            Focusing on deriding one detail, while ignoring the points that were made to support it?

            Double Fine has damaged its reputation, again. While the specifics are new, the idea that Double Fine has botched game production is unfortunately an old story.

            How long is Double Fine going to stay functional in its current state? They’ve shown that while the studio stays afloat, they won’t learn. Schafer has even said that they are continuing to look at the potential of future crowd-funded games. Four years ago, Bobby Kotick described Schafer as someone who missed every milestone and ran over budget in creating what (to Activision) didn’t seem like a good game. Today, that still describes Double Fine.

            Are gamers supposed to subsidize studios that cannot manage their either their money or their workload? Does everyone need to run out and buy Spacebase just to keep Double Fine in the black?

            I said it would be bad for people to lose their jobs, but at least they could move on. I wonder how many are truly happy at the current incarnation of Double Fine? Both Schafer and one of the Spacebase devs talked about how hard it was to kill a project that they were invested in. I’m pretty sure people at Double Fine aren’t happy with the (justified) backlash that they’ve been receiving, either.

            And it affects those outside Double Fine as well. I mentioned that there are people who are now wary of Gang Beasts, not because it is an Early Access title, but because it is an Early Access title that is being published by Double Fine.

          • Hypocee says:

            Your thesis statement, its own first paragraph, isn’t a ‘detail’.

            But on the flip side, I’m willing to grant you about thirty bucks’ worth of ‘entitlement’ without it being a slur.

    • RobF says:

      A more likely scenario is that a) you’d never have known all the future plans and b) the publisher would have told them to ship it long before it got this far down the road with whatever features left to be implemented not done and for bonus points c) likely removed the developers ability to discuss it too.

      So it’s kind of swings and roundabouts.

  8. Granath says:

    So Tim, you put a tech demo out there with no funding plan beyond letting advance sales pay for future development? That is not a funding plan.

    Furthermore, your team failed to produce a compelling product (hint – even very early in alpha Prison Architect was fun / novel) nor did they make timely updates to the game, which kept potential buyers away in droves. It’s one thing to put out a VERY early alpha like DF9. It’s another for months and months to go by with no significant development. Which suggests that not only did you not have a funding plan, you also failed to have a good project plan.

    Finally, you did this with an expensive team in one of the highest Cost of Living Areas in the world.

    So to recap:
    No funding plan beyond hope
    No or poor project plan
    No business sense whatsoever for a project like this

    And we’re supposed to feel sorry for you?

    • princec says:

      Nobody asked you to feel sorry for Tim Schaefer…

      • wyrm4701 says:

        Oh, I don’t know about that. I get the impression Schafer’s leaning pretty heavily on fan sympathy in his explanation. He’s saying that the DF-9 team worked really hard on it, and it’s such a disappointment that people didn’t give them more money. Disappointing to the team, disappointing to him… sad for everyone, really. Oh, and if you already paid for Spacebase, they just hope you’re going to be happy with what they did manage to accomplish.

        Which, if you’ve played it, is… not good. Very pretty, sounds great. Not much of a game, though. Tim Schafer’s very disappointed. Better luck next time, Double Fine fans!

        • shadow9d9 says:

          Looks pretty, sounds pretty, but not much of a game describes pretty much everything they’ve produced in the last few years…

    • KDR_11k says:

      Yeah, I guess a big reason for the alpha success of some games is that they are fun even in their alpha state so people who buy them tell others how great they are whereas with the not-yet-fun alphas people check them once to see what they got and then stash them away, hopefully to be dug up the day that the game hits final (or at least another popularity wave).

      Oh and while we’re on the subject, StarForge just appeared on the new releases list as 1.0.

  9. Lethys says:

    Doesn’t Tim Schafer realize that the reason people don’t buy games before they’re complete is because stuff like this may happen? So then he says “well not enough sales,” but you’re doing the thing that stopped us from buying it in the first place, thus justifying our caution. I really don’t like this business model. To try and model yourself after Prison Architect, which is an anomaly to begin with, is a bit insane. He’s obviously inept when it comes to financial planning. People don’t generally like to buy products that aren’t 1/5 complete 4 years ahead of their completion.

  10. Buemba says:

    If Minecraft stopped development during alpha what was there was still enough to make me glad I purchased it. Same with Gang Beasts. DF-9, on the other hand, is a pretty hollow game and I doubt the few things they’re adding for 1.0 will change that.

    So lesson learned – Don’t buy systems heavy games in early access unless the systems that are already in place are strong enough to make it immediately fun.

    • Matt_W says:

      Uh, exactly? Isn’t this precisely the point; don’t pay for EA games that aren’t already fun? That’s exactly what the Steam EA disclaimer says. There should be rules that gamers have to hear before they buy anything:

      1) Don’t buy an Early Access game that’s not already fun.
      2) Kickstarter donations are exactly that: donations.
      3) The world will not end because you spent $30 on something that’s not worth $30.

  11. NathanH says:

    I don’t really like the idea of Early Access games where they’re not in a position to finish the game to an acceptable standard with 0 Early Access sales. Early Access seems well-suited to the three cases i) a professional developer has the resources to make the game to a good standard, but also wants early feedback and some sales to maybe make extra resources available; ii) a developer of any kind has nearly finished a game and is releasing on Early Access for some extra cash, interest, or testing; iii) a non-professional developer who is going to make the game anyway and isn’t drawing salaries, but might want money to pay freelancers to do stuff for them.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I agree. Kickstarter, for example, is a viable option for raising capital to make a game whilst in most cases I have seen, early access has been used to provide supplemental development budget. It seems odd that double fine would have really thought that early access alone would be enough to support development

  12. Lanfranc says:

    So in other words, they were expecting they could develop it for free. Okay, then. :-|

  13. Cinek says:

    ” But Spacebase spends more money than it brings in” – that’s because the game was crap.

    In last 2 years this was pretty much the only game I truly regretted buying cause it was THAT bad. Even the worse EA games I played delivered better experience than this pile of crap.

    Game had some good ideas early on, but they were lost in time, and patches released over time really didn’t bring much goodies into the game. I seen better and more content-rich games brought by a one programmer – for example: Rim World. Rim World at it’s first alpha release was way better and more fun game to play than Spacebase DF9 is right now.

    IMHO the this whole game was nothing more than a cheap cash grab on an Early Access programme from Double Fine.

    Shameful to say at least.

    • trjp says:

      You are displaying epic quantities of Internet entitlement and ignorance at the same time.

      1 – accusing someone of a cash grab when they’ve explained they’re losing money is massively stupid

      2 – one-man development is a very special case and it’s not the case here.

      One man developers operate in a different sphere to any sort of development team. They keep costs super-low and they keep focus super-high but there are serious limitations on what 1 person can do and how long it takes them to do it (and they need to be able to do everything too – and they’re likely not as good as some things!!)

      The moment you stop being a 1-man-band things get MUCH more complex – 1 staff member or even a contractor or someone helping you out requires management and you’ll likely have a company to run – your time for creative work was just slashed – your costs went up massively and your time went down.

      You can’t compare them and to assume a 5-man company does 5 times as much as a 1 man company is WAY WAY wrong (sometimes I think 2 man companies are slower than 1!!)

      • Cinek says:

        Gash, another Double Fine apologist.
        @1. I’ll remind you that next time you complain about EA games. Just look at the SimCity and how they had explanation for everything. Whatever you can make up an explanation for something or not is meaningless in a face of facts.
        @2. Incompetence in management however is a case here and there’s obviously something wrong going on in Double Fine. It’s not the first time they f**** up, though it’s the first time they f**** up so badly.

        • trjp says:

          Calling people names and attempting to pigeonhole them into your own StrawMan arguments is pointless – you hold an opinion but you’re doing a desperately poor job of putting it across and antagonising people won’t change that.

          Someone who disagrees with you is not an ‘apologist’ – not a stooge or a prop or whatever else you’re used to calling people either – they just disagree with you because you’ve made a poor argument and are throwing your dummy all over the damned place.

          You’re the one raging at DF and EA and promoting one-man-development-as-messiah etc. – you kinda come over like a crazy preacher and no-one is asking for a copy of the sermon ;0

          Maybe they did wrong – maybe people should be peeved but everyone (including the developer) would be better off if they were just a bit more realistic about how life is

          By way of a general reminder

          “Life is shit – anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something”

          Have a nice day

          • shadow9d9 says:

            1. There was no name calling. “Apologist” is not a name unless you are the most sensitive person on the internet.

            2. He stated REASONS behind his thoughts. IN your rant, you didn’t even ATTEMPT to address even one.

            3. We don’t care about your copy and pasted quote of someone else. Address actual points or admit that you have nothing of substance to say.

          • derbefrier says:

            did you not read both of his posts? he addressed both of his points… Cinek, in his usual fashion is just spouting canned nonsense out of the “guide to be an edgy internet commentator” using catch phrases like apologists!!!, cash grab!!!! making asinine comparisons!!!

          • Geebs says:

            Being fair – the fact of something failing to make money doesn’t make it not-a-cash-grab, it just makes it not-a-successful-cash-grab.

  14. SanguineAngel says:

    Hrm, I am a little confused. I am a supporter of both crowdfunding and Early Access where appropriate. However, Tim’s justification that the game wasn’t making enough money through sales to support development seems naive to me. The game was on early access, not full release.

    Sure, there are a few games out there that have made real profits through selling early access to their games but by and large, surely the expectation should be that you aim to profit once you release your product? It’s my understanding that in the majority of cases, the bulk of sales still happen post-release. (unless, perhaps, the public perception is that the full release is an abandoned wreck of an alpha build)

    • Cinek says:

      Let me cast light on your confusion: This game never was about having a finished product. It was a cash grab on early access programme. When people stopped buying it – they simply threw the project out of the window.

      • bonuswavepilot says:

        So which is it? If it was a “cash grab”, given that they poured what money was made back into development, the only way they end up richer is if they managed to actually finish the game. If they “never intended” to actually do that, how were they going to end up with this cash?

        It sucks that things went this way, and maybe it is because of mis-management, but I’m not sure I follow the reasoning of your accusations.

    • Moraven says:

      Yah. I thought Early Access was there to support development, not fully fund it. Before it was the thing on Steam, games like Natural Selection 2 used Pre-orders to help, but not fully fund the game.

      …The final product was more commercially successful than we had originally hoped, but that came at a big cost. The game was too large in scope, took too long, and because of that, ended up being very high-risk.

      If we could do this over, we would have reduced the scope of the game significantly, or made a smaller game, so we could get cash flow positive sooner. We certainly wouldn’t have made our own technology as part of our first product. We bit off more than we should have, and the jury is still out if the engine flexibility, modding, or lost time will make up for it

      ength of Development: 6 years

      Budget: $2.9M ($1.1M pre-orders, $1.8M investment)..

      Not sure any other Early Access that were looking to completely rely on EA funds completely.

  15. Jenks says:

    So many video games industry issues exist because there are too many games.

  16. trjp says:

    There are lessons to learn here much as with any other situation people get riled-up over.

    1 – developers need to learn to say “Not in our vision”, to stop promising the moon when they don’t own it
    2 – customers need to realise that games cannot be developed indefinately unless they pay for them indefinately

    Fortunately there’s a solution to those things

    1 – people need to look at what EXISTS and decide if it’s worthwhile as-is. Don’t buy the game you think it will become – buy the game it is now

    2 – turn over your game to the community for continued development – people will do that, games have been kept alive for years, transformed beyond their “final” version, often fixed better than the developer likely had the talent to fix (Saints Row 2 and Fuel leapt to mind there)

    • shadow9d9 says:

      I don’t think so.

      ” customers need to realise that games cannot be developed indefinately unless they pay for them indefinately”

      If they want customers to fund it, then go kickstarter and STAY ON BUDGET. Double Fine can’t even do that. They got 6x what they initially asked for on kickstarter and still couldn’t produce a full length game…

      It is not the customers’ responsibility to fund a game’s entire development through early access. Absolutely ridiculous to assert such a thing.

      • Shuck says:

        “If they want customers to fund it, then go kickstarter and STAY ON BUDGET. ”
        Unfortunately that’s simply not possible. Kickstarter doesn’t allow one to raise a full game budget. Everyone who has “successfully crowd-funded” a game has used funds from elsewhere to get it finished. (And here I’m including people working for sub-standard wages that they subsidize with their savings, the most common means of supplemental funding.)

        • Baines says:

          If you can’t raise enough money on Kickstarter, then don’t claim/pretend that a lower amount of money is enough money. When Double Fine runs a Kickstarter, they make a promise to deliver on the project. People who give them money expect Double Fine to see that promise through. When Double Fine puts a game on Early Access, they are making a promise to deliver on the project. People who buy that Early Access game expect Double Fine to reasonably try to see that promise through.

          You don’t get to afterwards say “Oopsies, game development sure is hard and expensive. We promised to make this specific game if you gave us $100,000. You gave us $1,000,000. But we realized later that we really needed $10,000,000 and we just couldn’t find that other $9,000,000 in the couch cushions, so you get this screen saver instead of the game that we promised.”

          Just like you don’t get to blow off Early Access responsibilities without being called out for it. Double Fine’s work on Spacebase DF-9 wasn’t “Early Access” any more than paying to play an MMO is “Early Access”. It was just a continuous development game, one that would be “finished” when Double Fine decided it wasn’t continuing to make them enough money.

          • Shuck says:

            The nature of Kickstarter is that it’s incapable of raising game dev-sized sums of money (or at least for game campaigns). So part of that is getting money elsewhere. That’s just how it works. (So to say that devs need to get all their money that way and stay within budget is impossible.)
            As for Early Access – they’re committed, but to what? What exactly has been promised? There’s this fundamental ambiguity that’s a problem for E.A., and it becomes difficult to actually say when promises haven’t been met. Expectations aren’t promises, and expectations will almost always be disappointed. There were a lot of elements they wanted to add, if they had the funds. But they never had the funds – there wasn’t the level of support needed to make it happen. And that’s also the thing about crowd-funding – if the money raised exceeds what’s needed for the basic vision, the expectation is that the vision for the game will grow to make use of the funds. What the game will be is a variable thing depending on the level of support given.

  17. bills6693 says:

    There are a lot of views to take on this but personally this stands out to me in particular:

    it became clear that this was looking like a year and a half of production instead of five or so.

    5 years?? So the plan was for this to be in early access for five years, or were they thinking of releasing v1.0 after maybe 3 years. Still feels like a damn long time.

    I think this is an issue. You can’t expect good sales on your game for 5 years! I think if you go into early access, you should already be able to fund the game to release without the money. Thats not always possible for some devs, but I don’t think you should rely on your customers to fund it because if people want to wait till its actually done to buy it, you’ll just get no sales and thus no game.

    I think a big problem is all the people interested in the game bought it at the start. Maybe there’s a bump at 1.0 release but I doubt much. I think overall, you probably get less sales with EA because people might be turned away by it being EA when its first popular, and then when its actually released there’s little excitement or fanfare and the game just slumps.

  18. aldo_14 says:

    It sounds like they were trying an Agile development approach, no? But kind of screwed it up in the execution.

  19. Uglycat says:

    Starforge did the exact same thing almost at the same time DF did with Spacebase – suddenly jumped to Ver 1.0 and said ‘So long guys, thanks for all the fish’, leaving an even larger number of disgruntled customers than they had during development.

  20. wyrm4701 says:

    We started Spacebase with an open ended-production plan, hoping that it would find similar success (and therefore funding) to the alpha-funded games that inspired it.

    “But, ultimately, we couldn’t produce results remotely comparable to teams of one or two, working out of their basements and living on donations. Ya live, ya learn, am I right?”

    • derbefrier says:

      But, ultimately, we couldn’t produce results remotely comparable to teams of one or two, working out of their basements and living on donations and mommy and daddy and taking 6+ years to finish a game with sporadic updates that are often months apart. Ya live, ya learn, am I right?”

      there thats a bit more accurate. do you people really not see the difference?

      • wyrm4701 says:

        Yes, there’s quite a difference. I’m having some difficulty seeing how Double Fine, staffed by many proven talents with decades of experience, is at any disadvantage in this comparison, no matter how you’d like to parse it.

        • danielfath says:

          Yes, there’s quite a difference. I’m having some difficulty seeing how Double Fine, staffed by many proven talents with decades of experience, is at any disadvantage in this comparison, no matter how you’d like to parse it.
          This is sarcasm, right?

          Good talent gets payed, heavily. Or they leave. Most indies live on very little and are mostly single or unmarried people, trying their best to minimize their expenditures. Compare this to DF people that need to pay their insurance, accommodation, probably to support their family. Their talent is good, but it won’t make game that much faster to recoup the losses.

  21. Skeletor68 says:

    How often do early access sales grow significantly over time? Is it usually a big initial buy-in from people really into the concept followed by some word of mouth and update sales? This was one of those games where I loved the concept but wasn’t going to pay a full release price until completion, or at least until I heard that it was already really feature rich.

    Seems to be a silly way to run development. You would imagine that they either see promise in it and will continue to fund it or not.

  22. melnificent says:

    But DF made money on it after only 2 weeks on sale link to indie-fund.com

    Steamgraphs show that it has been played consistently link to steamcharts.com
    The 2 weeks to recoup costs were in October so since then there has been higher months of players. Using the 480 as a base for the 400k that means that some months it may have grossed far in excess of those two weeks. The salary of the 3 person team is estimated at $30k-$45k per month so that means the continued sales were enough to keep it afloat far longer than has happened.

    Now it’s been a year and a half so sales aren’t going to be as high as those two weeks. But is Schafer really saying that after breaking even that fast (and long tail sales), that he didn’t have an idea of when the money would run out 2 months ago. But instead sat on that until after a WEEK LONG SALE on steam… all the while pretending that development would be continuing with the Alpha (and eventually beta) releases.

    The timing of this, the previous funding information, and the data we have available says that far from “Money going back into spacebase only” that it was used on other titles to help keep DF afloat… which is fine, but just admit it already.

    • slerbal says:

      The sale was very shady.

    • shadow9d9 says:

      Not very different from when they sat on the news that Broken Age would have to be released as half of a game until after their kickstarter of their next game…

      Again, anyone who gives Double Fine money after their continued financial incompetence has no one to blame but themselves.

    • Sam says:

      I think that investor aspect of the story is really important. Investors “risked” their money on the game and made a tidy little profit off it. Yet the game was effectively never finished.
      It’s a kind of horrifying shift of risk in the investment system. Invest in an unfinished game and you get your pay-off long before it’s done because you’re paid out from the Early Access takings. When the project then fails it’s just the customers who suffer. It used to be that a game dying in development was the primary risk of investing, but now so long as there’s decent buzz around the game to drive alpha funding it’s a far safer way to get a quick and profitable return.
      Indie games! Yay!

    • Geebs says:

      That’s…. kinda shitty.

  23. daver4470 says:

    The fundamental problem I see with the Early Access/Kickstarter funding model: you, the developer, are putting a venture capital model in with people who are not venture capitalists and who do not understand the mindset you must take as a venture capitalist. And even if they do understand it, the investor pool is spread too thin for any individual investor to have sufficient information to make a rational judgment call on your program.

    If you were, in the abstract, a person that Double Fine was approaching to provide funding for DF-9, you wouldn’t think of it in terms of a game, necessarily. You’d view it as a process, and the decision you’d make is “how much further down the road will my $X move the process?” (This is obviously a huuuuge simplification, but stay with me here…) If DF says, and I believe, that a $10M investment will develop the core game plus additional features that make it a more desirable product, leading to $20m in potential sales, then it makes sense to invest. If my $10m will only get you a quarter of the way to a product that might pull down $5m in sales, I run screaming in the other direction.

    But the audience of early access isn’t hardened risk-reward analyst capital providers; it’s gamers. End users. People who are interested in the product, not the return. And ANYONE can promise the moon, especially when the audience has little to no ability to determine whether those promises are realistic or not, or even how much funding will be raised by the solicitation. So it turns into a giant crapshoot that’s 99% likely to disappoint some or all of your “backers”, who are really — from their perspective — customers paying in advance.

    The solution has to come from changes on both sides. Kickstarter and early access participants need to realize they’re not buying a product — they’re buying the developer’s time and work. It might produce a quality product, but it might not. If you’re not willing to absorb that risk, don’t invest. On the other side, developers need to be more forthright about what they have, and what your investment entitles you to. AND they need to be far more open with their “investors” about what they’ve done with their money. Any real venture capitalist isn’t going to accept “we’re working hard, don’t worry” as an answer. If there’s a product involved, let’s see it. If you’re not willing to be that open with your development — then don’t go to the public for funding.

    Just my $.02

    • Sam says:

      The irony is that the game was funded by venture capitalists, of a sort anyway:
      link to indie-fund.com
      Assuming it used the standard Indie Fund model, they made a comfortable profit on the game.

  24. slerbal says:

    As many others have said the concept that they would be in profit from Early Access only and modelling themselves on outlier successes (like PA) was absolutely crazy. Financial profitability (if any!) comes from release! EA is simply about offsetting some risk and getting your player base actively involved.

    I’ve seen this myself in the industry people from “big gaming” unable to adjust their budgets and planning to “indie gaming”. That is one of the reasons I got out of the industry.

    I know the lovely folks at Introversion well and they cut their cloth appropriately and worked really blood hard to make PA the success it is, and even they were surprised how well it has done (and long may it do so as they really do work bloody hard and making the best games they can).

  25. shadow9d9 says:

    Anyone that gives money to Double Fine BEFORE the game comes out should expect this. They are utterly incompetent with money. Additionally, Double Fine can only make barely passable, simplistic 3 hour games at this point. Broken age had over 3 million and produced a cakewalk of a 3 hour game. Stacking is a tiny game with little substance. Psychonauts is a decade old(and either aged very poorly or is just absolutely nothing special imo).

    As another poster pointed out, Divinity had a similar budget as Broken age and was a complete 40 hour coop optional deep rpg. Broken Age, for similar money, is a cakewalk half game that is 3 hours long.

    They assume zero risk and shove it all onto the consumers, that have to have trust that they will get a full game. Then, they just shove out the game before it is ready and hope sales fund more.

    Again, anyone who throws them money gets what they deserve.

  26. mouseclicker says:

    Well, the game wouldn’t exist without Early Access style funding anyway, so I’m okay with this. Sad it didn’t get further along, but better than nothing. =)

    I think the real issue is entitled fans thinking they’re investors instead of customers. You give them money for the immediate product that is delivered, not some hoped-for project down the line. You’re not owed anything beyond the initial alpha game. It’s like buying a game console at launch: you’re not owed a bunch of great games, you’re putting your money down knowing you may only end up with the launch titles, and you have to be okay with that.

    • shadow9d9 says:

      This isn’t too far off from when congress apologized to BP for their oil spill. Good job!

      • bonuswavepilot says:

        No not too far off at all… ‘Cause a computer game funding SNAFU meaning it is probably going to remain half-baked and someone pointing out that the funding model is inherently risky is just like billions of dollars of environmental damage topped off by political corruption.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        @shadow9d9: holy shit… You are a moron.

        I’m going to leave you unblocked for a little longer just to see if you post something even more outrageously stupid.

        • shadow9d9 says:

          Threatening to ignore someone on the internet is as pathetic as when someone does it in real life. “LALALALA!”. Go ahead and block someone. No need to announce it unless you crave attention. Get a life.

          Plus, that is exactly what a senator did.

  27. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I’d probably be upset if I bought it, but I didn’t and so I’m actually quite sad. I checked on this game almost regularly to see how it was coming along.

    Anyway, now I’m really leary of buying Clockwork Empires. I doubt they’d run into the same problem, as I’m pretty sure this is the only game they’re working on at the moment, but it still gives me hesitation. I guess I’ll just follow along until it gets to a better state, or even releases.

    • MacTheGeek says:

      Gaslamp has done an infinitely better job of communicating its progress with Clockwork Empires. I’ve been interested in the game since the first RPS article a year or so ago, but I don’t want to play an Early Access version and get discouraged. I’d rather wait until the game goes gold and is officially released.

      I did buy DF9 during a recent sale, but with the same intention (not playing it until fully released). I’ll keep it on the shelf, possibly for a while beyond release now; if Double Fine releases modding tools, there may be enough community interest to improve DF9 even after the official development stops. If not… well, it’s not the most expensive game in my backlog.

  28. Thule says:

    So, how is Double Fine going to fund their next few games?

    They burned their bridges with the big ‘bad’ publishers who won’t fund anything Tim Schafer is attached to anymore.

    They already fumbled one of the most successful gaming Kickstarters ever, releasing half a game and hoping it earns them enough money to finish part 2.

    And now they burn what remained of their fans’ goodwill by calling an unfinished game done. Good luck trying to fund something through Early Access again.

    I’m guessing Double Fine will go down in the next few years. They’re just too incompetent when it comes to managing a project or money.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I dunno, there still seem to be an alarming number of people on the Internet who have gone “D’OH WELL MAYBE NEXT TIME” at this.

    • GiantPotato says:

      It’s been interesting to watch gamers develop a bit of sympathy for publishers as they increasingly get pushed into that role themselves.

      • DrScuttles says:

        That’s some M. Night Shyamalan shit right there: it turned out we were the publishers all along!

    • Stromko says:

      DoubleFine has done very well for itself in an environment where they have almost total love from their customer base, and now they’ve screwed that customer base over repeatedly. They look to be doing everything they can to stay viable as a business, they’ve even paid off the people who invested into DF-9 from what I’ve heard (but not kickstarter or early access people, they’re f**ked).

      They can’t be doing as well as they have been doing, that much is for certain. Unless they release another truly brilliant game, they’re pretty much done, it’s only a matter of when this decade they’ll fold, not if.

  29. ElDopa says:

    Let’s do it like the people behind Towns…
    Coming soon: Spacebase DF10 Early Access!

  30. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    LOL at people who do not run a games company mansplaining budget management to Double Fine.

    Reading through some of the Steam thread… man, between this and recent ugliness, arguing with angry gamers is like arguing with climate change deniers. Just don’t even bother (though Double Fine can’t really choose to opt out here because damage control). When their assumptions are shown to be erroneous they simply fall back on “person who challenges my assertions must be lying”, never mind that the challenger is the only person qualified to make factual statements about the matter at hand.

    Or even more impressively, anyone not from Double Fine who defends them is clearly being paid and not, you know, expressing an actual diverging opinion. Just wow.

    There’s also a really scary sense of entitlement that $30 somehow buys you a lifetime of servitude from a developer, or until such time as you decree that there have been *enough updates* (see also the reaction to Notch ‘abandoning’ Minecraft, or that whole Left 4 Dead 1 thing back when). There’s a legit grey area with Early Access and crowdfunding where it’s hard to tell where actual promises start and assumptions end – and there’s a discussion to be had there – but just because you EXPECT there will be updates doesn’t mean you are owed those updates.

    If a developer makes a good faith effort to develop a game with the budget they have and it only goes so far that’s just how it is. If you don’t like that, DON’T buy Early Access games! When the choice is between stopping development on a game or sinking a company just to meet vaguely defined and infinitely scalable expectations only an asshole would demand the latter.

    That said, Double Fine definitely could have managed expectations better.

    • shadow9d9 says:

      Apologists to the rescue!

      “LOL” indeed!

      No matter how scummy, over budget, misleading, poorly planned, or underdelivered, there will ALWAYS be people who will come to the rescue.

      As I mentioned earlier, there was a senator who apologized TO BP because people were attacking them for their oil spill. Hell, even serial killers have their groupies!

      I would have thought that Double Fine intentionally waiting to release the news that their 3 million dollars for their 400k project(THEIR choice to “expand” their game-If you do that, better do it within the budget and on time at least!) will only be released as half a game until AFTER the kickstarter for their NEXT game would have made people think a little more clearly about what kind of people Tim S and Double Fine are. Nope.

      P.S. I’ve never backed a DF project, as it reeked of being a name cash in, by a guy that hadn’t produced anything of worth(imo) in decades… combined with the vagueness of the kickstarter. I have since played Stacking and found it to be a tiny, cute, but mostly random based “puzzle” game that really wasn’t worth my time in the end…even as short as it was.

      I also play real adventure games, that have been thriving for the last 2 decades, despite big name magazines no longer covering them. DF pumped and dumped a 3 hour cakewalk for 3 million dollars. Real adventure games exist and are published by quality indie developers all the time.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Thank you for perfectly illustrating everything I just described.

        • shadow9d9 says:

          Your post did a great job defining apologist. I was just thanking you for illustrating it completely. Using the word “entitled” was just a bonus that you threw out there for us!

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            Are you just trolling, or do you seriously think that this level of hyperbole makes your points sound *more* reasonable? Equating a game being bad with environmental catastrophe or someone on a forum with a different viewpoint with a fixation with serial killers is just silly, whatever one might think about the whole DF9 fiasco.

    • Vesuvius says:

      I think there’s a world of difference between expecting a lifetime of servitude and expecting a playable game.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        That seems fair enough, but my point was that ‘fans’ seem to scream bloody murder even when a game is for all intents and purposes complete… and while this one clearly is not, it remains to be seen how the final official release turns out. Putting features on a public development wishlist is not a promise.

        All this backlash is going to do is make developers more wary of being transparent, because they get crucified every time someone who doesn’t understand the process gets upset.

        • Diatribe says:

          Perhaps the end result will actually be that people will no longer buy incomplete games through pre-orders and early access? And then we’ll all look back on incidents like this and Aliens:CM and we’ll know it was developers and publishers that killed that golden goose.

          Then all the risk will be back with the people who fund the game, where it belongs.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            Ha, no. A lot of people LIKE crowdfunding and for every failure there are many many successes. It’s not going anywhere.

      • danielfath says:

        From what I’ve read they made a playable game, from what I’ve read on the forums, they made more than half of what they have promised but they have no cleaners and no teleports, which is their most lacking feature.

    • Big Murray says:

      What in the name of holy fuckness is the word “mansplaining” doing here?

      • pepperfez says:

        Ordinarily ‘mansplaining’ is when a man (i.e., a non-woman) explains to a woman something about her experience, as a woman, that she obviously understands better than he does. Here we have non-developers explaining to a developer something about his experience, as a developer, that he presumably understands better than they do.

        Not a perfect analogy, and guaranteed to produce more heat than light, but I’d say reasonably accurate.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          @Big Murray: As pepperfez indicates I think the word is used correctly in this context as I’ve seen it used before, including by men, to denote a similar scenario. Personally I find the word amusing, but it’s possible pepperfez is also right in that it invites a certain kind of reaction which may be unhelpful for this particular discussion. Satisfied?

    • Baines says:

      I believe there is the sense that $30 buys you a $30 game.

      I want to recall reading that Double Fine promised monthly updates, which they failed to deliver.

      Schafer’s response, quoted above, mentions that Double Fine saw Spacebase as a 5 year project. They canned it after what, a year and a half or so? Even Schafer is effectively admitting that the game that they are releasing as a complete project isn’t the game that they were selling to people for over a year. (It certainly isn’t what Double Fine was selling in its recent Steam sale, when Double Fine had to have known and kept silent that they were killing development.)

    • P-Dizzle says:

      The fact that you just used the term “mansplaining” says a lot about you.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        The fact that you feel the need to point that out says more about you.

        • P-Dizzle says:

          Don’t you have some female or minority to go and protect?

        • Baines says:

          Not really. Mansplaining is a fairly terrible term, one used to simultaneously deride the target speaker as well as to openly ignore everything the target speaker has said without regard to whether any (or even all) of it is correct.

          That doesn’t even get into the term being sexist.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      Well said, Ninja Dodo.

  31. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I think hardcore double fine fans like me need to stop and ask themselves if they are comfortable supporting the ridiculous development cost of a San Fransisco studio. If double fine had an office somewhere sensible we wouldn’t have to shell out this kind of money for abandonware & they’d make some of the best games in the industry. I’m not angry, I’m disappointed.

    • Shuck says:

      The office being in SF doesn’t change the budget that much unless they’re paying people enough to live there (which I’m pretty sure they aren’t). Relocating somewhere else in the Bay Area won’t change costs significantly (though it might allow them to have a bigger office).

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Since when do players get to decide where a games company is located?

      • The Sombrero Kid says:

        I didn’t mean to suggest that people should force double fine out of San Francisco, I wrote that on my phone and it wasn’t as clear as I’d like. I meant there’s a difference between supporting a game dev and buying their games, I paid for Broken Age and Space Base DF-9 before I knew they were great games because I was doing it to support Double Fine and I trusted them to deliver. I don’t usually do that and it’s always about supporting the developer, but I don’t think I can support Double Fine any longer – their development costs are far too high for me to be able to comfortably support. That isn’t to say that if they were to release an excellent game I wouldn’t gleefully buy it on launch.

  32. eggy toast says:

    The posting on Steam is what convinced me that Tim Schafer isn’t just a terrible businessman, he is also an asshole as a human being.

    He is pouring love for the game all over the place and makes it his “Favorite Game” on Steam, with a play time of 2 hours, and play date of more than 2 months ago, while blaming the suckers who bought DF9 for not having also sold it to their friends, pyramid scheme style, even though he didn’t tell them that the game would be abandoned if it didn’t sell gangbusters.

    • Martel says:

      That’s pretty sad, nothing like burning away what goodwill he may have still had. Thankfully I learned my early access lesson a while ago, saved me a lot of heartache.

  33. eggy toast says:

    It’s also worth pointing out that even the Very Best Double Fine Games have serious weak points, and the majority of them are honestly average at best. They haven’t released a game this decade that was actually finished and fun, let alone impressive.

  34. BobsLawnService says:

    Tim Schafer is a joke in the industry. He burned through the good-will of all the publishers out there and now he is burning through the good-will of the public.

    He is proof that all the stories about how publishers are the big bad evil are really one sided accounts of what happens in the industry.

    One only has to look back at the photos of him bathing in dollar bills and then go look at how he mis-spent that money and delivered half a game to see how little respect he has for other people and their money.

    Next time you hear a story of the big bad publisher cancelling a game or cutting off funding just remember this.

    • danielfath says:

      You realize those paper bills weren’t really money?

      He pretty much copied some fake money and made it look like a big wad of bills.

      • rpsKman says:

        The guy lives in San Francisco, the El Dorado of the Internet Age.

      • BobsLawnService says:

        I think you’re missing the point a bit. Real or not, it just shows how seriously he takes investor funding.

  35. Adamustache says:

    I can understand why other people are upset about this, but for me, I decided to buy this game knowing that early access meant the game might not turn out to be everything everyone wanted from it. I gave them my money to support the game, even if it didn’t turn out well. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of all of double fine’s other games that I’ve played, so being able to give them a chance on a variety of new projects is worth my money. If other people don’t feel that way (which many clearly don’t), then I don’t think they should fund these types of things in the future. But for me, I don’t regret giving them money even a little bit.

    • MacroFine says:

      Yeah I don’t mind taking a gamble now and then, it had potential

  36. geldonyetich says:

    I’m pretty disappointed in Double Fine. I had thought they were one of the better game developers out there, but only a scrub would name drop a lot of features in order to sell an early access product, only to leave it to rot on the vine.

    I suppose I should have seen it coming when they didn’t realize the immediate need for a Psychonauts 2.

  37. Granath says:

    They even had the gall to run this at a 50% off sale in the week preceding this announcement, knowing full well weeks, if not months ago, this was a dead project.

    Schafer can try to defend that, but it’s indefensible. That’s simply a money grab and a big “screw you” to the customers before running away with the money. Assholes.

  38. Big Murray says:

    Quite honestly, I don’t understand how Double Fine can keep doing things like this and not draw the ire of gamers more than they do. They’ve exploited crowdfunding to the extreme, and not delivered on anything.

    • Seafort says:

      I think Spacebase DF-9 is the “straw that broke the camels back” this time.

      Personally I will never support any of Double Fine games again. They have piss poor money management and overall are run so badly as a company.

      I’ll never again trust them to finish any game they start. This should be a warning to all PC and console gamers to never support Double Fine until they can prove they have actually finished a game worth buying.

      Feels bad boycotting an indie developer but it’s the only way they’ll learn to treat their customers with a bit of respect and wake the fk up :)

      • Philomelle says:

        They finished a game literally two weeks ago, so I’m not sure what kind of warning this is going to give. That even a veteran company can mess up when using a funding approach they haven’t tried before on a project from a genre they have little experience with? Is that it? Because that’s less a warning for a customer and more a lesson for a developer.

      • AngoraFish says:

        Agreed. I was willing to give them a pass on Broken Age, but DF-9 is now that one step too far for me to ever consider buying another of their games outside of a bundle.

  39. P-Dizzle says:

    I thought this guy was a crook during his cash grab Kickstarter campaigns, and nothing makes me think any different now.
    Double Fine are not fine.

  40. DrManhatten says:

    Tim Schaeffer is a bit of a douche why people think he is such a great game designer is beyond me just because he was involved in Monkey Island (not a big role though) and Grim Fandango doesn’t give him any extra slack.

  41. FriendlyPsicopath says:

    SCAMMER, there I said it.

  42. zer0sum says:

    Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? When you get in bed with Early Access Games, you know she’s going to leave you one way or the other. At some point, she’ll say it’s 1.0 and it’s finished. Granted, it’s possible that she’ll just walk out the front door one day without saying a word (Towns), but generally you can expect the day to come where the ride is over.

    I haven’t played DF-9 and I don’t know that I ever will. It seems like it’s a small game with some grand ambitions that, in the end, aren’t feasible due to Real World Reasons. The gaming outrage machine lacks both the wisdom to understand and the mercy to forgive Real World Reasons for getting in the way of their dream.

    A lot of people put a lot of work into making this game for you. And so, in the end maybe it’s not amazing, but it could also never have existed. Whatever fun you did have with this game, you never would have had without it. Not this specific fun. So yeah, she left you a little unsatisfied. But you got to enjoy how unique she was and had a nice time together. It could have been more, but it wasn’t.

    So don’t become a scary stalker type who is going to carry the flame forever. Those people exist in the video game world. I’ve got my own cadre of stalkers thanks to a similar fiasco surrounding the StarDrive 1 transition to 1.0, and to this day they are still out there, lighting the night with their little insane torches of justice.

    • Arren says:

      An analogy as inapt as it is creepy. Early Access: not at all like love. That shouldn’t need to be pointed out.

      I’ve got my own cadre of stalkers thanks to a similar fiasco surrounding the StarDrive 1 transition to 1.0, and to this day they are still out there, lighting the night with their little insane torches of justice.

      I see you’re no better with euphemism…..

    • DrManhatten says:

      No offense but your argument/analogy is pretty weak and shows exactly the problem of the indy game / video game industry they see it as an emotional entity (which it isn’t). First of all it is a business a business like any other your deliver a product people will buy or not buy. In no other business you can get away with practices like that. Or since you seem to like analogy here is one for you: It is like promising a customer to deliver a sports car at a certain time frame but what happens instead. First you deliver the sports car 6-12 months later as promised and second when you deliver it you leave the engine out but still take the money your customer paid for when ordering. Or if that’s to far away from you and you are more the arty type persion. How about this you promised a painting but when you deliver and call it a day the canvas is still half empty.

  43. Laurentius says:

    So everyone and their mother runing to defend poor Tim and DoubleFine are not even trying hiting “gamers are entitled” bingo straight away. /facepalm.

    • Bull0 says:

      Not really reading a lot of peeps defending Double Fine in these comments. Seems like on the whole people are finding this pretty irresponsible and/or unprofessional.

  44. SkittleDiddler says:

    You done fucked up, Double Fine. You done fucked up good.

  45. Serenegoose says:

    Games get cancelled before they’re done all the time. Early access seems to me a bad deal for everyone because it puts projects out in public before anybody knows if they’re just an idea that’s fated to be cancelled or a finished project. The people who buy into it get a game that didn’t have what it took, and never gets finished, and the devs look bad for releasing an unfinished game.

    I also think it’s poor show, however, for double fine to take that cancelled product and slap ‘1.0!’ on it. Come on. Your game didn’t span out and it’s gotta be cancelled. It happens. Be honest, say as much, don’t pretend ‘but this is fine as it is!’ and cart it out like it’s feature complete. It does not save face for you, and it stings consumers. It’s a lose/lose response.

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      This is what irks me the most. Calling it finished does not make it finished, and I’d be a lot more understanding and supportive if they didn’t try to paint it that way.

  46. AngoraFish says:

    More or less already said above, but DF-9 was BAD when it was released, and remains BAD. As a result, the Steam reviews are sucking away any incentive for sensible players to buy it unfinished.

    If one is going to release a game to Early Access it needs to be actually good/fun, even in its more limited state. Otherwise you’re just shooting yourself in the foot and sabotaging your future customers and goodwill.

    Oh, and it should also avoid copious sales, and appearance in bundles, as you’re just cannibalising your day-one audience, who would otherwise have been willing to pay full price on release. Games make the bulk of their revenue in the first couple of months after release – torpedoing your future revenue stream by massively discounting your game months or years before release is a disastrous financial miscalculation.

  47. Craymen Edge says:

    link to steamcommunity.com

    This thread on the Steam forums attempts to compare what was on the planned/desired features list, and what has been delivered. If it’s correct then the line:

    “The issue was that hundreds of features that had previously been listed as “maybe possibly” coming to the game were no longer to going to be delivered”

    at the beginning of this article is rather misleading, there seems to be a lot in there.

    Also: TIL the Steam forums are a fucking horrible place.

    • Baines says:

      To be fair, someone later in that linked topic makes a list of missing features, and ends up with around 100. (I lost track counting, possibly skipping a few, and didn’t feel like recounting. If you prefer, I can say 99+.)

      I don’t know if that missing features lists includes skeleton and non-functional implementations. Schafer has said that those are being counted as bugs, and finishing them is part of bug fixing. On the other hand, some critics have said that they aren’t sure Double Fine can implement their additional promised release features and finish even basic bug fixing within the final month, much less include finishing their already partially implemented features.

  48. Spoon Of Doom says:

    There are two things that piss me off about this. The first thing is that they apparently thought the game making more money than they spend in development for years all while not only in early access, but in a state that offers not all that much more than a tech demo. That is not only a wildly unrealistic expectation, but it’s not a foundation for any kind of project. If you can’t fund it without Early Access, then you can’t do it – EA making enough sales to fund all of the development is just very, very unlikely. That might(!) be a bit different for a solo indie dev living in his basement, but if you have a team of talented developers that you need to pay appropriate wages, then no dice.

    But the far worse thing, the thing that really pisses me off about this, is that they’re calling this thing “finished” now and act like it’s just not quite polished, not quite like they envisioned it, instead of the half-finished techincally-a-game-probably-I-guess that it is. If Tim Schafer just came out and said “well shit, we messed up, we won’t be able to finish this, sorry”, then I’d be fine with it. It’d still be stupid because of my first point about their funding plans, but it would at least be honest. I mean, I don’t expect them to finish their project at all costs if they can’t afford it – if the studio goes broke, there’s no game at all. But this acting like just because they say it’s finished, it actually is finished, that just rubs me in a wrong way.

    I like DF, I try to see their position, but this just seems like a mess from start to finish and I’ve lost a lot of goodwill for them.

  49. Wret says:

    Looking up and down these comments and the comments on the Double Fine forums, it really does look like yeah, clear communication on how much of their future features depended on sales would have taken alot of the piss out of this. Having that monolithic feature list up probably didn’t help (and suddenly removing it probably didn’t help either). Neither did the asking price for what COULD be a good game but wasn’t quite there.

    Hell, make it like Kickstarter stretch goals “If we sell these many copies, we’ll be able to do X Y Z” It’s the kind of thing you could never do in partnership with a large publisher, but that’s part of the point, isn’t it? To do things you couldn’t do before crowd-funding.

    The update cheery/optimistic tone in telling players “It’s in YOUR HANDS now” (assuming you know LUA) is a bit like rubbing salt in the wound though. I can definitely feel that subtle backhand if you were an eagerly patient backer, thinking “It’s not that fun now but it’ll get better-Wait what the fuck?”-BAM! The open-sourcing might allow backers to eventually get a game that was worth what they paid for. Hell I feel inclined to buy it in order to help. It’s not like I’ll ever get to touch Dwarf Fortresses’ sacred innards.

    Also since people like to invoke Bobby Kotick in this discussion, did anyone keep track of how many features Destiny was supposed to have and how much it actually contained at launch/V1? I’m wondering if people would be less forgiving of the games they pay $60 (how the hell do I get a pound or euro sign?) if they had an accurate list of intended features that never saw the light of day.

    • Baines says:

      Don’t forget the missing feature list, you also need development obviously cut short. (After all, Schafer did say that they originally saw Spacebase as around a 5 year project.)

      Actually, people do complain when that happens.

      Having features cut can be annoying, but it *is* a standard element of design. People do hate hearing about the stuff that they may have lost, but they also tend to accept it as long as they believe the developers put in a serious effort. But even the appearance of cut features in combination with a rushed game or a game with a short development cycle? People get upset.

      People complained when Capcom cut an advertised game mode feature from the Xbox 360 version of Street Fighter X Tekken, particularly since Capcom did find the time to complete all its DLC characters before the discs went gold. (These particular complaints were largely lost in the swell against on-disc DLC, as well as some console advocate bickering.)

      People complained about the Triforce gathering in Wind Waker, which became worse when Nintendo mentioned that Wind Waker had what appeared to be a relatively short development time. This case is a bit interesting, as Nintendo/Aonuma has said that the method of Triforce gathering wasn’t the result of cut features. However, it was revealed that two planned dungeons were cut due to time constraints.

    • Abattoir says:

      Isn’t the cutesy cartoon bullshit at least 75% of DoubleFine’s appeal? Making this open source is pointless.