Yogventures Backup Plan TUG In Trouble

Tugged off.

TUG appears to be, at a glance, another Minecraftbut — it’s Minecraft but not entirely squares and with some story bits. It is also, you might remember, the game that Minecrafty YouTubers Yogscast turned to after the crowdfunded Minecraftbut they officially endorsed, Yogventures, crashed after running out of money. Yogventures backers would get a TUG key and Yogscast would team up with the TUG team to do Yoggy things, was the idea. Now TUG, which was also crowdfunded, is struggling with money too. Developers Nerd Kingdom have laid off half their team and are delaying the game. Oh dear.

Nerd Kingdom (gosh, honestly?) were counting on another investment coming through in January but that investor turned out to want ownership (no, it wasn’t Yogscast), they explain in a Kickstarter update. Rather than hand it over, they’re trying to go lean and have halved their team. They say that they’ll still finish the game, it’ll just take longer.

They’re planning to bump TUG’s price when they launch the next update, which will add multiplayer, by the end of October. Nerd Kingdom hope this’ll get them enough attention and cash to re-hire a few folks.

They also claim a few “big publishers” are interested, though I’d casually speculate Microsoft’s probably not one, given that they’re paying $2.5 billion for Minecraft devs Mojang.

Ultimately they should think of their Kickstarter backers and early access supporters. Should these deals not work out, will they begrudgingly accept investment from folks who want ownership, just so they can finish the game?

Having written this post, I still don’t know what “TUG” stands for.

48 Comments

  1. Wulfram says:

    “The Untitled Game”, according to the wiki

    • darkhog says:

      Soon, it’ll be named The Unfinished Game.

      Hopefully not though as I was one of KS backers of TUG (back when Yogventures were still in development) and even if such thing happen they’ll open source TUG.

    • thristhart says:

      I contend that this is perhaps the worst video game title in recent memory, as by all appearances they intend to keep it.

      • BooleanBob says:

        At least it isn’t a sequel with the exact same name as a previous series entry. Or a letter replaced with a numb3r.

      • Doganpc says:

        As a backer I wholly approve of this bad videogame name sentiment. However, it is better than half the crap that is just a few currently in vogue words and/or simulator.

      • Hyoscine says:

        At least it isn’t another – Forgotten / Age / of / Dark / Shadow / Realms / of / The / Fallen [choose three] – deal.

        • Y2Kafka says:

          “of of The”
          Well… crap. That is a terrible title.

        • Yglorba says:

          Why stick to three? Release Forgotten Age of Dark Shadow: Realms of the Fallen.

    • Gemberkoekje says:

      According to the Yogscast, it could be “The Ultimate Goat” – a title I kinda like, personally.

  2. Dezmiatu says:

    It seems Youtube personalities are toxic to games when they try to inject themselves into them. Maybe after the 5th or 6th try they’ll finally be in their own controller moved talky.

    • Wedge says:

      Well, AVN had a completed game that was apparently fine for the retro styled 2d platformer it was designed as. Wouldn’t personally know since I have no interest in the subject matter nor the game.

      • darkhog says:

        You mean my antivirus is working on a game? o.O

        • Wedge says:

          Ha ha. Yeah. Well that is the first acronym that pops into my head, so wouldn’t even notice it was off.

    • JeCa says:

      If Youtube gaming grows even more, and making your own game becomes the new rite of passage for channels with egos just slightly above their status, maybe “Game of the Youtuber” will become the new “Game of the Movie” in terms of expectation levels and development cynicism.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Sequelitis does a Sequelitis on Sequelitis The Game 2: The Sequelitisening, accuses it of hand-holding and dumbing down.

  3. melnificent says:

    I want to support indie devs, but this poisons the well for those that really need the funds to finish games.

  4. JarinArenos says:

    Yogscast appear to be videogame poison.

    • Sam says:

      I’m sure that TUG’s early access sales have only increased since the Yogscast started making videos about it and generally bigging it up. But it certainly draws in to doubt their skill at picking projects/creators that will succeed.

  5. ZombieJ says:

    What’s that? A company that was created purely to profit from games made by others is a bad influence when making design demands to actual game-makers? Shock, horror!

    Industry tip: if you have to halve your dev team *during* development your final product will be considerably weakened by it. Admit defeat and refund your backers before you receive legal action due to the new KS terms.

    • Shuck says:

      On the other hand, if you release something, no matter how terrible, you’re also fulfilling the Kickstarter terms, and in a way that covers your arse better, especially if you’ve been spending the funds to, you know, actually make the game, making it difficult to return them.

      • Doganpc says:

        Yeap, I suspect that this could be the final push to finish the game. Since the mod tools are already there it’s just a matter of opening it up, getting multiplayer in there so people can connect and play reliably and release it much like Spacebase DF9 did.

        On the other hand I can see another indie developer picking up some of the funding slack much like the recent acquisition of Before by Facepunch Studios.

        Coincidentally, is Before a better game name than TUG or Facepunch a better studio name than Nerd Kingdom? Maybe I should go read the comments there and see if the creative criticism is legit or just trolling.

    • Hyoscine says:

      If they started development before the new terms came out, they’ll probably get a pass.

      They’re still reckless idiots though.

    • Tssha says:

      They’re running out of money. A full refund is impossible at this point.

  6. Baines says:

    the crowdfunded Minecraftbut they officially endorsed, Yogventures, crashed after running out of money

    Yogventures was certainly a mess of mismanagement. But Winterkewl also raised the question of where some of that money actually went, when they mentioned that Yogcast took $150,000 (to pay for rewards and to hire a lead programmer) but may have only spent about one-third of that sum. (One of the Yogcast guys addressed the issue by saying that Winterkewl’s version was misleading or wrong, but refused to give details on how or what.)

  7. iago says:

    Oh, FFS… yet another one?! After StarForge, Stomping Lands and DS-9 – now this? What is this, a season for dropping developers?

    • Jalan says:

      DS-9? Was there a Star Trek game canceled recently that I didn’t know about?

    • Shuck says:

      This kind of thing always happens in game development – dropping staff, canceling the game or pushing out something that’s half-baked. The difference is that now we have some crowd-funded games, where this process is all out in the open, and we know when it’s half-baked because the developer’s ambitions are all out in the open at every stage as well. We’ve now had crowd-funding of games going on long enough that projects are running out of steam (no pun intended) after having been in development for a while. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this.

    • Cvnk says:

      We’re entering the next phase of the crowd-funding craze. All those games that got funded a year or two ago when everyone was so excited about this new business model are now either going to be delivering something or falling on their faces. I suspect since making games on budget is hard we’ll be seeing more of the latter than the former. Expect lots of these stories.

      • derbefrier says:

        and indies are learning they should probably go to the local community college and take some business management courses.

        • Continuity says:

          To be fair, I doubt you’d learn much about video game development project management in a business course. Indies are really in a catch 22, as you can only really make good estimates, budgets, and project plans if you’ve got the experience of having done it before, but for many of them this is their first project of this size, so in many ways they’re doomed from the start.
          No business course is going to tell you how long its going to take an inexperienced programmer to implement feature X, its all just hand waving and best guesses.

          • Premium User Badge

            teije says:

            As someone who runs a (non-gaming) software dev shop, getting even experienced developers to give you accurate estimates on implementing new features is as easy as herding soaking wet cats.

        • Shuck says:

          All a business management course would teach aspiring indie developers is that it’s a really, really bad business decision and they probably shouldn’t do it. The basics of Kickstarted game development is that involves everyone working for free for an unknown length of time. You can’t manage your way out of that reality. You just have to hope that the unknown length of time won’t be longer than you can afford (which will depend on a lot of other unknown factors).

          • Tssha says:

            This is basically it. It’s not incompetence, it’s just a really, really hard management problem. Sometimes you just don’t have enough money and crash out.

            Besides, saying a budget is accurate is really dependent on your standard of accurate. There are degrees of accuracy, and even if you give yourself all the safety space you can, that may still not be enough. And of course, you can only get so much money out of people unless you’re a rock-star programmer with an ego to match, and then you have to hope that it doesn’t wind up like Duke Nukem Forever. Sometimes you can’t give yourself that safety margin because you just don’t get enough.

  8. communisthamster says:

    What a shame. I’m a backer, I don’t know why as I don’t really like voxel games, but I thought maybe this one would change my mind. The devs have a background in game academia so it’d be interesting to see theory applied.

  9. Wret says:

    I backed this with the expectation that it would crash and burn, but liked the idea of using SCIENCE to make a Minecraft-like and games in general.

    …speaking of which that’s probably why they’re called “The Nerd Kingdom”.

    Regardless, going from the backer update it sounds like sales have been picking up, but I’m skeptical about the $20 price increase. I’m thinking that might backfire like it seemed to with Spacebase

    • Doganpc says:

      It’s a release price. Then it’ll hit steam sales this winter for $5.
      So it is written, So shall it be done.

  10. Neurotic says:

    Yobcast. Ha!

  11. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    Folks should probably just rally around Minetest and be done with it.

  12. narcogen says:

    News flash, guys! The only place you can find sources of funding that require neither collateral nor equity is Kickstarter. After that, you actually have to give up something to get something. Of course, I’m sure it’ll be much better if you just hold on to your shares and keep laying off developers until you just need to close. That’ll show them!

    • Shuck says:

      That’s not even true of Kickstarter, for the most part. Given the relatively small amounts raised on Kickstarter, developers end up leaning heavily on their own savings to make the game. You still need another source of funds to get it done.

  13. Bart Stewart says:

    There’s a story lurking here that I haven’t seen written yet. Namely, how many developers are using KS funding as a kind of undisclosed pump-priming for additional investment, rather than as all the money they expect to need in order to deliver what they’ve promised?

    As someone who has backed a few game projects on KS (including TUG), should I just start assuming that any game asking for more than the equivalent of $100K is also shopping for investors and not acknowledging it?

    I’d be interested in reading any serious reporting on this.

    • KillahMate says:

      What Bart said. A number of relatively high profile projects have at this point failed because of problems with outside funding; it definitely seems to be a lot more prevalent than one might expect from reading project pages. Has the flood of Kickstarted games looking for investors made it less likely for any individual game to get them – in a sort of hidden mirror of what’s happening with Kickstarter itself?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      I am really glad that Kickstarter updated their terms of use. Maybe that’ll encourage kickstarter devs to disclose this information to those whose money is on the line.

    • Tekrunner says:

      Developers should probably be more open about this, but the simple fact is that 100k$ is a not a lot of money in software development land. I work in a team of relatively young developers, and the average yearly cost per person is 50k€, *before* you include fixed and other related costs (rent, hardware, support staff, etc.). With 100k$ you can at best pay a couple developers for a year at anything like a normal salary. There’s a fair amount of goodwill, personal investment and payment as a share of sales in the indie world, but that can only go so far.

      So of course games with some ambition (and without a swiss-knife genius like Banished’s dev) are likely to look for outside funding.

    • malkav11 says:

      I’d actually sooner assume the ones asking for low amounts of money are planning to source the rest of the funding elsewhere. $40k or even $100k is a really small amount of money to make a game on and is probably only realistic for very small teams on a short timeline or living like hermits, part time production, finishing up the final touches on something already most of the way done, or similar.

  14. MadTinkerer says:

    From what I’ve seen of successful projects (of which there are hundreds), their plans are something like the following:

    1) Figure out how long you are likely going to need to develop and add up your personal cost of living for this time, and whatever other overhead you might need such as a mac for the mac port, your own android phone for the android port, etc.

    2) Realize that software development is hard and double whatever numbers you have because even a simple commercially viable game that isn’t shovelware is probably going to take at least a year. For example, Minecraft was crap for a whole year before it was good, and Notch had made a lot of games before Minecraft.

    Accurately predicting how long it will take to implement software features is something you can only do for features that are standard. The more original your game is, the more unpredictable to estimate how much time and money it will actually cost. (This is the real reason why AAA game companies are so adamant on spending millions on remaking the same game: it really is that much harder to make original games because of the rules of software development.)

    3) Figure out backup plans for when things go wrong, because Real Life is the enemy of software development and no strategy survives contact with the enemy. This also means you should probably add more to your now-doubled budget.

    4) If your ridiculously-inflated numbers (that is to say: realistically-inflated numbers) still look like reasonable numbers go ahead and pitch your game. But you may instead want to go back to the drawing board at this point and figure out what compromises you need to make to ensure your dream game becomes a reality.

    Freedom Planet is a wonderful game with terrible voice acting. Broken Age is a wonderful game with great voice acting. Freedom Planet did not cost millions, and Broken Age did. Consider making the compromise, and then start over from step 1.