Everquest co-creator cancels new RPG Hero’s Song

Everquest co-creator John Smedley’s new studio, Pixelmage Games, has closed, taking procedurally generated multiplayer RPG Hero’s Song [official site] with it. The game, which received almost $100,000 of crowdfunding via indiegogo last year, had been showing off the skeleton of its simulated worlds – think Dwarf Fortress Adventure mode lite – in Early Access for a couple of months, but on Boxing Day, a statement from the team explained that development had ended. Sales fell short of what was needed and all purchasers will now be able to claim a refund.

Details on refunds, whether you purchased through Steam or Indiegogo, are included in the statement, the central part of which is below:

It’s with a heavy heart that I have to report that Pixelmage Games is going to be shutting down and we have ceased development on Hero’s Song. For the last year, our team has worked tirelessly to make the game we’ve dreamed about making, and with your support, and the support of our investors, we were able to get the game into Early Access. Unfortunately sales fell short of what we needed to continue development. We knew going in that most startups don’t make it, and as an indie game studio we hoped we would be the exception to that rule, but as it turned out we weren’t.

I tried Hero’s Song just before the winter break, spurred on by a write-up on Eurogamer that made it sound like an interesting playground. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the inclusion of jewelry slots on genitalia wasn’t part of the appeal. If your willy were to get chopped off during a fight, you might lose the diamond-studded cockring of +6 stamina, or something like that. It’s not that I think every game should pay more attention to the penis, it’s more that a game that dealt with the possibility of cock-loss sounded like it’d be simulating details that most games didn’t. Like how Dwarf Fortress’ biological functions aren’t essential to my enjoyment in and of themselves, but speak to the intricacy of the simulation in a way that makes me very happy indeed.

The build of Hero’s Song that I played wasn’t particularly gripping though. It felt too early – the sketch of a game with big ideas, few of which were implemented in any meaningful way. I’d love to have seen what came next, as was the case with Smedley’s ideas for Everquest Next which sounded excellent on paper, but the Hero’s Song has fallen silent for now.

Hopefully, Smedley will be able to realise his simulated worlds one day. For now, best wishes to the staff of Pixelmage.


  1. Syt says:

    Sorry to hear, but at least they’re giving refunds, which is a lot more than other failed/canceled games offered.

    • DuncUK says:

      I know RPS commenters tend to have a rather idealised consumer perspective, but I do think it’s unreasonable to expect every failed crowd funded game project to offer refunds. For a project that was 100% crowd funded, 100% of the crowd funds won’t be available at the point of cancellation.

      Anyone that offers them has to rely on a less than 100% take-up rate. It would be risky to offer refunds if the likely take-up rate would exceed whatever funds remain.

      What this story makes also clear is that some (maybe most?) crowd-funded developers don’t pitch kickstarters asking for an amount of money to complete the game, instead they pitch them asking for the money to get to a saleable Early Access release in the hope that EA sales then fund the rest of the development.

      • Shuck says:

        Sadly, Kickstarter just can’t raise a full development budget, for a number of reasons. So crowdfunders have learned the most they can ask for – and have any chance of getting – is, at most, a quarter of what they need. So they necessarily have to find another source for the majority of the funds, and those other sources are also necessarily more precarious. Gamers should really understand this, as it’s a core dynamic of crowdsourcing. I get really annoyed seeing people claim that game developers “stole” the money or “took the money and ran” when they clearly spent several years – and far more money than they raised – making a partial game. It’s a risk for both developers and backers, and for projects done in good faith, I don’t think it’s fair for backers to expect their (already spent) money back.

        • Titler says:

          ” I get really annoyed seeing people claim that game developers “stole” the money or “took the money and ran” when they clearly spent several years – and far more money than they raised – making a partial game.”

          And I get really annoyed when people think this allows them to ignore the terms and conditions of Kickstarter that they signed up for, which states your initial ask should be what you believe is enough to cover full production of product and all associated rewards. Not “Some of it, with more later if we’re lucky”, but all of it, right now.

          You might have a point if you ignore that; but this is what people giving their money think they are signing up for when they back a Kickstarter. Things can still go wrong, more money can still be needed, that’s acceptable… what is NOT is lowballing the figure simply to get a successful Kickstarter when you know full well that’s nowhere near enough money to to complete the product.

          I made this mistake Kickstarting the utterly immoral Shroud of the Avatar, and only afterwards discovered they’d deliberately done exactly this, and quickly asset flipped a few things from the Unity store, and set a short term figure to get them out of the financial pickle they were in. Then, to get the rest of the actual funding they needed (which was also more than even they expected due to financial and design incompetence) they re-designed the product from a Buy to Own game in the style of the single player Ultimas, into a Macrotransactions with Premium Currency MMO… and they still can’t honour even the rewards from the first kickstarter; Episodes 2 (which should be free for certain backers) will require a second kickstarter now before they’ll even start developing it.

          If it were a Bank or Utilities company deliberately ignoring the rights of consumers to be informed and contracts honoured, if it were a Bank re-writing contracts after they’ve been signed so they sold you the product they made most money on, rather than what you want… people would rightfully be outraged. But because it’s the gaming industry doing it, far too many people are so invested in gaming personally that they can’t imagine developers as anything but dear friends who should be supported in what ever they do… and like any other group of people, not all game designers are decent people.

    • Chitzkoi says:

      I always thought the whole thing about crowd funding was that the projects are riskier… hence usually ‘larger’ returns.

      Agree it’s very good of them to offer refunds.. I don’t think they should have to.

      • DuncUK says:

        I always thought the whole thing about crowd funding was that the projects are riskier… hence usually ‘larger’ returns.

        That’s the case for normal investments, but crowd-funding is not the same as investment. By helping back a crowd-funded project, the extra benefit you get is that the game project will be attempted at all.