Torment: Tides of Numenera addresses stretch goal cuts

With Torment: Tides of Numenera [official site] out later this month, developers inXile Entertainment have addressed complaints that some features billed in the RPG’s crowdfunding campaign won’t appear as expected. Some of these changes sound for the better, inXile following paths that they thought more Tormentous rather than ticking stretch goal boxes. Some, like ditching the Italian localisation, are more of a bummer. Crowdfunding campaign pitches are always broad “We’d like to make this sort of game; here’s what we’re currently thinking” ideas, likely to change and develop as the game takes shape, but stretch goals do feel different for being specific.

Over the past few weeks, fans and backers have poked and prodded, discovering that a variety of features listed as stretch goals – which were hit – won’t be in Torment, or not quite as pitched. After addressing individual complaints here and there in forum posts, Torment creative lead Colin McComb last night posted an update on Kickstarter addressing the whole situation.

Some of the deviations from stretch goals, to be clear, sound good – changes which flowed naturally as the game came into focus. McComb explained:

“Building a game is not a straight line from start to finish. It’s not as simple as creating a design document, implementing it, and shipping it. It’s an endlessly iterative process, one where ideas must be thought up, discussed, prototyped, iterated on again, and tested in game. The cycle repeats frequently. Sometimes, these ideas don’t work out the way you intended or just don’t feel like they fit properly in the theme of the game.”

For example, one location pitched in a stretch goal as another “major city”, the Oasis of M’ra Jolios, ended up relegated to a smaller role as a different location was promoted to major hub status. McComb said:

“Though we fully intended that the Oasis would be our second city, story changes, plus our growing fascination with the Bloom, turned that location into our second major hub instead. In fact, the Bloom and surrounding areas are much larger than we originally discussed building for the Oasis. This didn’t adversely affect the length of the game – we’re still delivering a second major hub, and the Oasis will still appear in a smaller form. We feel this was the right move for the game creatively. It meant we could focus on a setting that felt darker and more distinctly Torment, and it improved the pacing immeasurably.”

Sensible! As you learn what works best in the game, you focus on that.

A bit iffier is the decision to ditch several NPC companions who were spread across stretch goals, meaning the game will have six rather than nine. McComb explained:

“While we laid the groundwork for more, while building the game we realized that we had to make a tradeoff between companions with depth, or a larger amount. We chose to focus on the added richness and personality that you expect with a smaller group. The game’s scope increased considerably over what we originally set out to build, and we underestimated the amount of time and iteration it would take to make our companions as reactive and branching as they needed to be.”

Again, that’s them using their limited resources in a way they feel best, but I do think stretch goals warrant special attention.

Games often mobilise their fan base around stretch goals, getting them to spread the word and increase their own pledges to see specific features. Kickstarters fund broad ideas but stretch goals supposedly fund specifics. And fans do get invested in these, they do drive people to pledge to projects that are already funded. Even your level-headed cyberpal Alice has gotten excited over cool-sounding stretch goals. Here’s the pitch for The Toy, a stretch goal companion attached to Torment’s $2 million mark:

“The Toy is a changing ball of goo: Is it a pet, an abandoned toy, a dangerous weapon? Whatever it is, it responds to the way you treat it by changing its appearance and abilities to reflect what it perceives as your desires. Its ultimate secrets are… well, you’ll have to find out.”

That’s more than inXile said about any companion (or all of them combined, even) in the original Kickstarter pitch. And The Toy does sound cool! And will not be in the game. After exciting fans with the idea, helping secure extra funding, inXile dropped it and didn’t say anything.

It’s a perennial crowdfunding problem: poor communication. I don’t object to devs ditching or changing features as they see fit, but I think it’s important to tell people who funded the development partially on the promise of their inclusion. InXile do acknowledge this. McComb says:

“We have always been major proponents of openness during development, but we did not communicate these changes earlier, and we should have done so sooner. For this, you have the entire team’s sincerest apologies.”

If I’m honest, I’m glad certain features are cut. Another stretch goal was crafting and crafting is, of course, (almost) always terrible. McComb says that their crafting ideas “did not mesh well with the rest of the game’s systems.” He explained:

“Rather than adding an element that felt tacked-on (and worse, out of place for Torment), we repurposed those resources. We added more cyphers and artifacts to the game. We also added some other, more story-based elements to further flesh out equipment and items. That helped the items fit with the structure and style of the emerging game.”

One big stinker of a cut feature is the Italian localisation, which wasn’t even a stretch goal, just a base feature. McComb say it would be very expensive, and “both our backer numbers and the sales of our prior RPGs in Italy meant it was unlikely we’d be able to field the very high costs.” He explains that they hadn’t known the script would swell to over 1.2 million words. That just seems like poor planning. They are offering refunds to Italian backers who want them, but this comes after a long time of leaving them thinking they’d get an Italian translation. Poor planning, poor communication.

I half-wish crowdfunding campaigns would simply say “We’ll use any extra money to try to make it better, maybe in this way!” Or “We’ll accept extra money and keep on making it.” A simple “Give us money and we’ll use to try to make a cool video game!” I understand why devs don’t do that, but committing to stretch goals can dilute a game with box-ticking features yet dropping them can lead to upset.

McComb acknowledges this:

“A lesson we’ve taken away since the Kickstarter campaign is to avoid being too specific in detailing early designs, locations, and characters – it’s fun and exciting at the time for us and you, but…”

I think there’s a disparity between how developers and we the public see crowdfunding, and we’re probably in the wrong. We are very much backing broad ideas whose destinations are yet unknown but too often we see them as promises. The specificity of stretch goals blurs the line and encourages that thinking, fostering frustration and disappointment, but perhaps they draw enough money to be worth it.

An earlier version of this post said an Italian localisation was a stretch goal; it wasn’t, it was part of the base pitch.

97 Comments

  1. kirito says:

    After experiencing the crud of the Pillars of Eternity stretch goals, better to cut a half-baked idea than waste time and money just to check a box.

    As a backer, I’m going to leave the pitchfork in its case. Or wherever people store pitchforks.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Barns, in my experience.

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      Don Reba says:

      Tool sheds! But I suppose a dedicated internet warrior owes it to himself to have a high-efficiency lightweight composite pitchfork disassembled and stored in a special case, like a rifle.

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        kfix says:

        May I interest you in this custom-fitted back-slung pitchfork scabbard? Kevlar for the high-wear spots where friction might disastrously slow your draw, artisanal tooled leather for the style.

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      teije says:

      Pitchforks are best kept by the compost heap.

    • Morte66 says:

      I’m just relieved that they cut crafting.

      • pepperfez says:

        Had “Remove crafting” been a stretch goal I would have had to give more to see that it was met.

    • Veracity says:

      On pitches.

      Forks are awful for picking up pitch, it’d just run through the tines.

    • Denis Ryan says:

      Yep. It’s hard not to be sad when you realize the time and effort that obviously went into PoE’s massive Endless Paths. The combat is pretty clearly the worst part of the game, so it’s bizarre that they committed themselves so early to a massive combat-heavy, story-light dungeon.

    • Jane Doe says:

      Better no keep then Caed Nua, indeed.

    • Yglorba says:

      Yeah, I strongly agree with this. I’m someone who likes crafting if it’s done right (although it rarely is), and even I’m glad they dropped it – the fortress in Pillars was one of its worst parts, just really obviously tacked on with little connection to the rest of the game in order to check a box off their stretch goal promises. It would have been much better if they’d devoted that effort to an area more organically connected to the game (or skipped over the whole fortress improvements and attacks minigame and made the fortress just a “story” thing.)

  2. Snowskeeper says:

    I don’t think we’re in the wrong. As is often the case with widespread societal problems, the system is in the wrong (am I a political journalist, now, mom?). The fact that, as the article mentioned, stretch goals are presented as Definite Things What Will Be Done is problematic.

    … That said, it’s difficult for me to look at this and think “well, they were just doing what they could to make the best use of their resources.” Janky system or not, stretch goals are presented as a promise to backers at present. At the very least, there should have been a discussion. “Do you lot mind if we ditch the extra companions so that we can spend time depthifying the other six?” “We’re switching the second hub from the Oasis to Bloom; that okay?” Etc.

    It’s inherently sleazy to make a promise and go back on it without telling anyone until after the fact, no matter the reasons.

    • Christo4 says:

      Yeah, i agree with this. I don’t understand why they don’t just make lower stretch goals. I mean, from what i noticed these things ALWAYS happen on kickstarter or other crowd funding campaigns. The devs promise a lot of things with just a bit more money, but then fail to deliver.
      You think they’d have learned by now.
      But hey usually the fanbase which supports games like this doesn’t seem to care for it that much, so it’s no surprise they’re not held responsible for it.
      Might as well make some stretch goals that are unrealistic just to get that bit more money for development.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        “Might as well make some stretch goals that are unrealistic just to get that bit more money for development.”

        And that is of course the problem. It’s economic sleaze.

        They will have sold more units because of their marketing, but walking back on their marketing won’t result in losing all of those extra sales. Even if they had to issue some refunds, it wouldn’t be to everyone that backed due to X or Y, because by that point, as a consumer, you’ve committed to your purchase, psychologically you already OWN that game.

        So yea, they made more money by telling lies, basically. The worst thing is that delivering on these promises is unlikely to even result in a loss, we’re more likely talking about a reduction in profits.

        Sleazy, whether intended or not.

      • pepperfez says:

        It depends on how much good faith you’re willing to attribute to developers. If you assume that their sole objective is extract as much cash as possible from consumers, then sure, why not start from fraud? In fact, why do any development at all when you could just pocket all the proceeds and abscond with them?

        Funding a kickstarter requires a certain amount of trust that the developers are genuinely trying to make the best game they can. Be disappointed that things don’t work out ideally, but don’t treat it as a deliberate attack (because it almost certainly isn’t).

    • keefybabe says:

      The problem is that saying x will definitely happen in any form of dynamic creative media is an automatic fail.

      If they throw shit in the bin because it didn’t work out then good. It’s only because games like this are kickstarted we even know about the initial idea set in the first place.

      I think all kickstarters should have a big disclaimer saying, “feature set subject to change” on them as some people are clearly not getting this.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        In fairness, part of the reason people feel that way is that many projects, and Kickstarter itself to an extent, represent things that way.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        That disclaimer isn’t required, the Kickstarter itself is subject to as much change in direction as the creator wants. Sometimes all you’re selling is a dream.

        But when you explicitly say, “When we make $X we’re going to do Y” then it’s a completely different scenario.

        To be honest I think my solution would be to return any funding at or above the lowest stretch goal that isn’t delivered. They apparently only needed the extra cash to deliver feature Y anyway, now they’re not delivering it they shouldn’t get to squirrel that money away how they like.

        • keefybabe says:

          Obsidian.. Squirreling away money? Obsidian?

          More likely they used the money to not have to shut up shop that month.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Wait, where did Obsidian come from? Did they acquire inXile when I wasn’t looking?

            (Not being snarky; I genuinely don’t know anymore.)

          • keefybabe says:

            No, that’s me mixing up studios. Oops.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Stretch goals should start out with “When we make $X we’re going to do Y (but we might not, y’know just if we feel like it)” and subsequent kickstarters for companies that didn’t deliver on previous stretch goals should read “When we make $X we say we’re going to do Y but we probably won’t”

        • Shuck says:

          “squirrel that money away”
          Ha ha ha. No, there’s no money from that Kickstarter being used for anything else. In fact, the amount getting raised in these Kickstarters represents a small fraction of the total funds being spend on developing the games.
          “But,” you say, “They raised a million dollars!” For a company with offices, that’ll pay for a year’s salaries and office space for a couple designers/writers, a few artists, a couple programmers and.. oops, out of money. That’s not a full team nor the necessary length of time. Doubling that still doesn’t cut it.
          So no, claiming that they’re saving money from the Kickstarter doesn’t even make sense – the money is just plugging holes in their budget that’s mostly coming from other sources.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Well said.

      They seem to have ‘learned a lesson’ at the expense of their customers. Although some of the changes are due to changes in the game itself, not delivering on a reward because it costs too much is simply not on. You eat that loss, it’s your fault – you set the funding amount and decided on the goal. Walking it back now with a faint ‘sorry’ simply isn’t good enough.

      In cases like this even refunds don’t feel sufficient (not that you could expect any more), because as a Kickstarter you’re often investing more than just cash. You’re engaging with the product and the community – in many cases you’ve literally provided a valuable service to the company you’re kickstarting.

      As I say, at least with regards to things like the localisation – it’s up to them to eat that cost as far as I’m concerned.

      • pepperfez says:

        Every kickstarted game I’ve payed close attention to has eaten a pretty large share of the costs of just getting the product out the door. Inxile very plausibly literally do no have the price of another localization. Which sucks, but Kickstarter Is Not A Preorder. These things happen.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          The complaint, so far as I can tell, is not “what how dare they fail to do what they said.” The complaint is “this was very poorly planned, and they should have communicated with us when they found that out; instead they actively hid this from us and only gave the information up when people figured it out on their own.”

    • cpt_freakout says:

      It was just quickly mentioned by Alice, but I think that the fact that the explanation came after beta testers ‘discovered’ all this changed or missing content is also a pretty grave failure on the devs’ part.

      There’s also the fact that they were actually pretty communicative, but I guess this goes to show that they treated updates more like a form of PR than an actual ‘state of the matter’ contact with backers.

      I also believe this is not a situation in which ‘we the public’ are in the wrong, because it’s the devs’ responsibility to be as clear and as forthcoming as possible precisely because ‘we’ don’t know anything about development. This is not our fault at all, and we shouldn’t be required a crash-course in game production to be able to pitch into some dreamy crowdfunding project we like.

      In the end, crowdfunding is still a relatively new thing, so I hope that future projects by inXile do all of this better, and that other devs that might be reading the complaints also find something of value to be drawn in terms of what their relationship to their backers entails.

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      Nauallis says:

      I’ll go ahead and play devil’s advocate, to everyone else here, since the other replies are creating an echo-chamber.

      I disagree; fundamentally it is the backer’s/consumer’s/individual’s responsibility to make better usage of their own resources, time, and money, and to accept the responsibility for the outcome of those choices. This is akin to the argument about pre-orders – if you don’t like the incentives offered by the developer/publisher in exchange for your money prior to the game’s release… the only two aspects of that process that an individual consumer can control is their own purchasing power, and the intensity of their emotional response. Thus don’t pre-order, and if you do, you are entirely responsible for your own disappointment if the product doesn’t meet or exceed your hype.

      Interpreting stretch goals as anything other than hopeful dreams is a personal problem. Frankly, interpreting a crowdfunded project as anything other than hopeful gestalt-thinking is also a personal problem. It’s not fun to admit when you don’t know something, but realistically, if you don’t understand how game development operates or the process of creation, then don’t throw money at the problem! I’m not saying that it’s wrong to feel hopeful or that it’s bad to back these things – we’ve obviously gotten some really neat games out of crowdfunding – but being unable to accept and understand that crowdfunding is a risky investment at best (and a complete waste of money at worst) is the consumer’s problem. Seeing stretch goals as anything other than wishful thinking, is in that light, completely absurd.

      TL;DR – it’s angel investment without a contract, and the outcome may not be what you like, so the only real control you have is to not invest.

      All of that said, do I believe my own comment? Sort of. It’s easy to approach this from a detached perspective without any attachment. But I don’t think any of you are wrong to feel misled. Intentionally lied to? I dunno.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        I mean… If “peoppe disagreeing with each other about every aspect of the situation” is your idea of an echo chamber, then yeah, I guess we have one. But if that’s the case, I’m not sure what you did to change that.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          People*; sorry.

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          Nauallis says:

          Most of the other replies to, and including your comment are stating in no uncertain terms that this is a “sleazy move” by the developer, that the developer made promises, and the consumer isn’t seeing crowdfunding in the wrong way. Porkolt addresses another great perspective on the issue, below.

          Like you, “just opinioning.” Cheers.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Sssso you chose to make an argument you may or may not believe based on the fact that one comment stack contained several people who believed something within one category of things (though most of us, again, don’t agree about the details), and a few people who didn’t?

            That’s not really opinioning. It’s not even devil’s advocacy, since that implies that the figurative devil and his friends aren’t around to argue on their own behalf. That’s just sort of silly.

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            Nauallis says:

            I don’t fully believe it because the world isn’t that black-and-white. And most of the whining commentary implies that it is, like there’s some objective moral imperative that inXile is supposed to be following, as if a developer/business is a friend of the consumer.

            No. Businesses aren’t our friends, no matter how great their PR. They exist for themselves, and generally to make money. They’re selling an idea for an eventual product. Ideas change.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Erm, no. If somebody promises something, and receives money for it, they are obliged to at least contact the person who gave them that money if they decide to change it. This has nothing to do with businesses being our friends. People are not going to receive what they paid for, and they weren’t even consulted about it. That isn’t just wrong; that is bad business.

          • keefybabe says:

            Except kickstarting isn’t buying a product. It’s investing in a potential project fully being aware you might lose your money.

            If you don’t realise it’s that, you do now, so you can use that to inform your position in the future.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            If a company says “if you give me this much money, I will do this,” the investor has every right to be irritated if the company doesn’t do that thing, and people have every right to call that company dishonest. Especially if the company doesn’t communicate with its investors and actively hides the changes until the investors find out about them themselves. Companies that fail to deliver on promises that they courted investors for generally find themselves with fewer investors in the future.

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            75oharas says:

            Except Kickstarting isn’t investing, its more akin to throwing £5 in the office lunch fund and hoping you get something you are happy with out of it.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Note that I was responding to somebody who specifically referred to it as investing.

            Don’t agree with what you said, either, though, because this isn’t an office lunch fund where the person who goes out and buys things is given licence to just buy whatever they want. This is a lunch fund where the owner of the fund makes specific promises about what will be bought if enough money is gathered. If you put in money because the person promised to buy a cooked steak for everyone, and instead he got… I don’t know, this is a shitty analogy, but I’m trying to work with it; let’s say he buys pork, because pork is of similar, if slightly lesser, quality; he does this without consulting anybody, and tells everyone that the mistake he made was not being more vague about what he was going to buy.

    • quadphonics says:

      I’ll never be buying another game from these LIARS/SCAMMERS again. That’s TWICE now they have screwed me over but no more. Obsidian is the SUPERIOR company, and I’ll be “sailing the 7 seas” when Bards Tale comes out too.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    I liked what I saw in the alpha a lot, so I trust their judgment. I don’t want them to fulfill those promises at the expense of the game’s quality.

  4. widowfactory says:

    Kickstarter isn’t a pre-order system, there are no promises that there will be a final product _at all_, let alone any extras. And i say that as someone who backed this game

    • Snowskeeper says:

      No; there is definitely a promise. The promise is “if funding reaches this point, we will be able to produce this game.”

      Full disclosure: I didn’t back this game. Haven’t backed any game, mostly for this reason (and also because I have no moneys). Just opinioning.

      • Porkolt says:

        That’s the thing, though. With electronic entertainment, reaching your funding goal allows you to actually produce something. That means that before the funding is provided, a product, or even a very clear vision of how that product should look, does not exist.

        This is not the case for many physical products that are funded on kickstarter. KS funds are, in those cases, used to provide funding for the actual production of the product. A prototype has already been developed, manufactured, tested, completed. The actual money goes in making a multitude of those prototypes. With a digital product, multiple unit production is as simple as uploading it to the Steam database (or whatever).

        I think people don’t see the difference between these two things clearly enough. There certainly isn’t much of a difference when you go into campaigns for either product when it comes to stretch goals. Certainly, the main campaign is going to show you a finished product that you will get, or it’s going to show an idea for the game that you’ll be getting when it’s done. By stretch goals? They always are basically the same thing: “in addition to the product we just pitched, you will get X!” And X is usually pretty specific, too. That’s fine if you have a finished product and already know what X will look like – you use the extra money to fund the extra manufacturing costs without having to increase the individual unit price; you can do it because you got that much more money. But when there isn’t actually a product in the first place, it becomes pretty nonsensical to make promises about specific features that it will include, because those features might not turn out to be a good addition in the future. This is apparently the case here.

        So the problem isn’t with the fact that inXile are dastardly fiends who took your money and didn’t deliver on it. It’s the fact that because of the way kickstarter campaigns work, the system forced them to include stretch goals, thereby forcing them to make promises they might not even want to keep.

        • cardboardcity says:

          thanks for the explanation. It comes down to salesmanship, I guess. Being a poor, I’m not investing in “dreams,” nor something that is going to take 5 paid DLCs to become an engaging game.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          That’s the thing though, stretch goals are entirely optional, hell if you look at any kickstarters they’re something they added in by the promoter – there’s no special ‘stretch goals’ section in kickstarter itself. They didn’t have to specifically promise anything.

      • spoileddecayingmaggots says:

        Promises are different than contracts.

    • TheSkiGeek says:

      Kickstarter *itself* doesn’t promise that, but the person making the product *is* making those sorts of promises. If they don’t deliver what was promised, or take the money and run, they’re open to getting sued.

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      Alpha1Dash1 says:

      Totally agree with widowfactory. I also think that somewhere along the line the meaning “Stretch Goal” has been mutated. I’ve always regarded it as a developer goal, not a funding goal – eg
      “If we raise x, we will add porting it to mac/linux to our list of goals”
      rather than
      “Our goal is to raise X. If achieve that, we WILL port it to mac/linux”

      • Baines says:

        Stretch goals haven’t mutated in any manner other than Kickstarter itself.

        Kickstarter, in its base form, is pretty much just saying that if people will give you X dollars, then you will try to do Y. You aren’t actually promising to succeed at doing Y. You are only promising to try to do Y. Stretch goals are just extensions to the campaign. You not only promise to try to do X for Y, you promise to try to do X+X2 for Y+Y2. You aren’t actually obligated to deliver on X2 any more or any less than X, though.

        The big problem with Kickstarter is that donation rewards were used to turn it into a pre-order system. While you are only obligated to try to deliver on your promise, in setting up a Kickstarter you accept a legal obligation to deliver donation rewards. When your donation rewards depend on delivering your core promise, then you’ve now given yourself legal and ethical obligations to deliver on your core promise. This should be just as true for stretch goals. Of course people can and have weasels on the legal obligation, and even denied any obligations at all, none of this is accidental. You know what you are doing when you tell people about a game that you are making, and then say that you will give them the game that you’ve described to anyone who gives you $20. You know that you’ve used that contracted delivery as a lure to get people to give you money.

        • pepperfez says:

          Wait, where did the change in legal status come from? The implied “try” is still there, even with the shirts and plushies and whatnot.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    All of those sound like the right decisions towards making the best possible game that will actually be finished. The only problem is making overly specific promises in the first place. The lesson for backers here should be that game development is a fluid unpredictable process and for developers it should be “don’t do stretch goals”. Just use additional money to make the game better in general and cover inevitable unforeseen expenses.

  6. lglethal says:

    I’m ok with them changing Story elements, etc. if it fits with the game and will make the game better. I would be annoyed if they promised a huge big 2nd City (for example) and then that 2nd City was 10% of the size of the first, i.e. if they promise big and dont deliver big. If the big Thing they deliver is different to what was promised but is still good then I’m ok with that.

    However, promising localisation and then backing out on that is exceptionally cruddy. OK they are promising refunds to the affected backers but really it’s still pretty poor.

  7. Kem0sabe says:

    The issue here is not exactly the cut content, even tho its bad that they promised something in a stretch goal and then cut it, the real issue is that inxile were deliberately hiding this…

    For weeks now people have been asking them on twitter, facebook and forums about the presence or not of feature x, all ignored. They only decided to respond this week, a month from release, because it started getting community attention on reddit (because of the leaked PS4 achievements showing that certain features were missing) and other websites picked up on it.

    The lack of time to respond to fan questions is a bullshit excuse, the devs are active on twitter all the time, posting crap… while ignoring fan questions.

    At least Obsidian and Larian are upfront and highly communicative to their fans.

    We only got this update because they were caught red handed.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Sounds like they were trying to secure some extra sales off the back of their false-promises before having to come clean. That IS a significant data point.

  8. raptir says:

    The Italian translation one particularly bothers me (not that I speak much Italian). First, Italian wasn’t even a stretch goal. The Kickstarter just states “The game will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish.”

    I also don’t buy that the Italian translation would have been unexpectedly expensive. Planescape: Torment has a script of over 1 million words. That means the script for Torment is about 15% longer than that of Planescape. That’s not about a $10k difference in translation costs. I just don’t believe that $90k vs $100k is what killed the Italian translation. I don’t think they did the math ahead of time and when they got to it they realized it wasn’t worth it.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Ah! You’re absolutely right. Apologies.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        Alice, people from Below want to know if you’re lighter than a duck.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        Wait you just edited it? That makes sense for a typo, but you should really retract things like this; if for no other reason than helping us commenters to look a tad less stupid (sometimes we need all the help we can get).

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Well that was the worst offender…

      Should probably add a retraction for that Alice, rather than apologising to a single commenter.

    • Fede says:

      Yeah, 1.2 M words from English to Italian are at least 100k €, probably a bit more if you want quality or to have it in less than 9 months. Or, at least, that’s my estimate; keep in mind though that I have never worked on something so huge. The largest project was about 400k words.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        Numbers I found just now ranged from 70k to 100k, yeah. So not greed; just incompetence.

  9. limbo12 says:

    I find it unbecoming of you to use your column to rephrase the arguments made by inXile. It is unfortunate that the baleful influence of postmodernism has resulted in a blank check for “journalists” to do away with the idea of objectivity otherwise you could have written a more useful article.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Ah, the “ethics in video game journalism” crowd.

      Burned any witch today ?

      • Horg says:

        A line of questioning that could start out critiquing the unnecessarily hostile nature of the prior comment and end with a plan to find out if Alice is lighter than a duck.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Are we reading the same article?

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Blaming the “baleful influence of postmodernism”. Cute. Haven’t heard that much since university days in the 90s.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      “I find it unbecoming of you to use your column to rephrase the arguments made by inXile. It is unfortunate that the baleful influence of postmodernism has resulted in a blank check for “journalists” to do away with the idea of objectivity otherwise you could have written a more useful article.”

      Ahhh, too much subjectivity! I can’t handle all these opinions, man, especially from one of them “commenters”.

    • cardboardcity says:

      Might be more useful to aim such criticisms at outfits like the Daily Mail. And postmodernism is just a scam to make collage seem like an art form. :)

    • Landiss says:

      Pro-tip: it really makes for a better reading experience when you make a note if an article is a review, RPS feature or a news post. This is a news post. From their nature, news post are short, without digging too much into a problem and they are often written based (to some extend, at least as far as I can see that) on the press materials. Additionally here in RPS they are sprinkled with RPS-specific humour, which results in things like for example most of the post is not even on topic. If you are prepared for that and tune your expectations, it’s really a better experience.

      Now, how do you know if something is news post or more in-depth article? It’s quite simple. Most of the time you see Alice or Philippa, it’s going to be news post. But to really be sure, just take a look at the top, it says “Home News Torment: Tides of Numenera” in there.

      In general, if you are not interested in those, I also recommend clicking the button “RPS features” (also on the top of the page). It will show only reviews and other bigger articles. To be honest I wish more people would do that, as it so often seem that good articles are not very visible, people don’t read them and they get less comments (and so probably less views and earn less money) then pieces that take much less work to do and are generally speaking not as valuable (although perhaps it would be better to say their value lays elsewhere).

      Oh my, that was a long comment noone asked for. Sorry.

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        kfix says:

        Gawd, non-RPS regulars so often fail to get the RPS house style. Was just reading a Reddit post that linked to one of Alice’s better headlines about Skyblivion. The comments are a hot mess of not getting it.

  10. Snargelfargen says:

    It’s hard to tell if this really is a problem of just poor communication, poor planning or more serious issues with the game’s development.

    The word is that the beta content is really good. If the rest of the game is also polished and excellent, then I won’t fault them for cutting stretch content for the betterment of the project.
    It would be tremendously disappointing though, if the cuts turn out to be symptoms of a messed up development cycle. Lack of qa and obvious unfinished content.

    Nothing I’ve heard about the beta even hints at that. Still, folks who didn’t kickstart should probably wait for the reviews to come out just in case.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Sounds to me like that it’s just another developer that forgot it was more beholden to its audience than usual, not something more serious. That said, I haven’t touched the beta, so.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Hey if they’ve made a great game despite keeping the truth from their customers, that is of course a good thing. Begs the question why they kept it from their backers until the last moment (I WONDER WHY).

      But importantly they should still be held to account, even if the game is good; that’s kind of neither here nor there; especially if you’re Italian :p

    • pepperfez says:

      A perfectly smooth game development is still pretty messed up; a lot of changes happen because the best choice wasn’t apparent before work began, not because something went wrong. The cut Italian version, for instance, is a consequence of too much text — barring some real weirdness, ending up with more content than you had planned on isn’t a bad sign.

  11. Horg says:

    It would be a good faith gesture to use the profit from post launch sales to make good on the Italian localisation. ”The Toy” should probably just never be spoken of again, it sounds like they were trying to promise the moon-onna-stick when they came out with that idea.

  12. lordcooper says:

    Changes happen, crafting is the devil, I kinda hate having loads of party members because it means I have to leave my favourite behind sometimes to get at all the plot.

    The only thing I take issue with is the translations, but even then a refund seems to set it straight IMO.

  13. Premium User Badge

    alphager says:

    I’m a backer at a pretty high tier from the first few hours of the kickstarter. My problem is not with the cut/changed content (I agree with most decisions and can understand those I disagree with), but with the way they weren’t announced.

    It’s wrong that there was poor communication; we saw an excellent marketing campaign and regular dev-updates. There was no breakdown of communication, no “focusing too much on development” but the deliberate lie of omission.

    The non-apology itself is pure marketing drivel and feels everything but sincere. It comes a week after bloggers and forum members started to put the pieces together.

    A lesson we’ve taken away since the Kickstarter campaign is to avoid being too specific in detailing early designs, locations, and characters

    Is the complete wrong lesson to take. I feel lied to and lost quite a bit of trust in Inxile. Not because I think the game will be bad (it seems to be quite excellent), but because I feel talked-down and manipulated.

    • pepperfez says:

      But you wouldn’t feel that way if the original promises had been vague enough that they were met, right? Eschewing specifics would have solved the problem completely, for you and for inxile.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        It would not have solved this problem. The situation would have kept this problem from coming up. Those are not the same thing.

  14. cardigait says:

    Italian here, and a Planescape:Torment lover.
    Planescape:Torment is one of the games that helped me to approach english in a fun/hard way, and payed off big time.
    I tend to play games in the original version but a lot of people here consider a missing translation a big NO; in a text heavy game like Numenera it’s even bigger.
    I suppose they counted the italian subscribers and thought that the percentage of enraged people was tolerable; this may also mean that we were the smallest community.
    However, telling this one month before release, when i suppose this must has been clear at least from 4-6 months, when someone gave you money in FRACKING 2013 is a major offence, that i tolerate only out of pure greed for a Planescape:Torment descendant.

  15. almondblight says:

    There are a few issues with this:

    1. As has been noted, these specific goals were used to generate funds. “If you get us another $200,000, we’ll do X” is a pretty sleazy thing to say if you aren’t going to do X. But InXile went beyond what normal Kickstarters do – they were sending e-mail out for months after the Kickstarter (I think the last one was 1.5 years later), asking people to give them more money so they could implement specific stretch goals. Again, pretty sleazy when you’re not actually committed to implementing stretch goals.

    2. This is an indication of the general troubled nature of the game. The production was delayed for a couple of years because of Wasteland 2 delays (even after assurances that the two projects would be kept separate). Writers for the game have said that there were a lot of cuts, and have mentioned the problems that this created. Less than a year into the full production the lead was fired and replaced by a “closer,” who said his focus was to get the game out within another year. The whole thing suggests that management screwed up and tried to rush the game out, and cut a lot of content to do so. Of course we don’t know for certain, because they haven’t been open with the backers.

    3. Communication. As has been pointed out by others, InXile not only didn’t tell backers about the cut content, they ignored questions about it as well. It was only after backers conducted an investigation on their own that it came to light, and only after it generated a controversy that they were willing to address it. This from a company that said that the Kickstarter allows them to be open with their backers during development.

    Of course they say that all of these things are just to make the game more awesome – what else would they say? The evidence suggests a different story, however, and it doesn’t give people much of a reason to trust them.

    • Someoldguy says:

      That’s a fairly cynical take on it, but that isn’t to say that it is the wrong one. Game designers that promise the moon and get whacking loads of money to create it can often go off the rails as the scope exceeds their capacity to manage. It does sound likely that in this case InXile may have chosen to screw down on what is achievable in a fixed time period rather than just keep building Star Citizen RPG and hoping their players will roll with massive delays and panic when the huge pile of money starts running out. That they decided to throw out stretch goals without telling anyone is a rotten thing to do.

      My own reaction to their announcement is mixed. I don’t particularly care much about the script/plot changes. I’ve deliberately avoided learning much about it. I’d have preferred fewer zones to look like something out of an Escher sketchbook because that looks like a rather unpleasant far future earth, but no big deal.

      On the other hand, quantity of followers and crafting are big selling points to me. That way you can pick the followers you like and equip them with the gear you want rather than being stuck with some annoying bullflap because he’s the only one that can cast unannounced tax audit twice a day or the only one who can wield the phlasmotic clockwork orange.

      That said, Torment is one of the very few old RPGs where the companion backstories are pretty awesome, so if they can match that standard and the gear you find is suited to those companions, fair enough. It was BG where after the first couple of runs I played fake multiplayer mode to run a custom party instead of having to deal with most of them.

  16. SanguineAngel says:

    I can’t say that feature changes and cuts are a source of angst for me in general. I am well aware that in normal projects things change frequently and expectations must be re-aligned. I can only imagine the mess that is games development.

    I’m sad to hear about the companions though – for me the backbone of any decent RPG is in the party dynamic. It’s great to hear about the depth of existing companions but I can’t help feel a little robbed by the exclusion of the remaining content in this crucial area.

    It’s a real pity about the Italian translation, too. I’m not really sure I buy their reasoning behind that at all. Translation costs are really relatively easy to broadly anticipate for planned levels of content – I would expect any projection to include a built in overhead and to top that I’m pretty sure the word count is not significantly greater than originally planned despite protestations to the contrary…

  17. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    The key question has to be if it has any material impact on the game, after all the original Torment had a number of cuts and changes from originally planned features.

    If you’re an Italian speaker then yes, this is clearly a substandard offering. Otherwise it’s all up in the air : this mostly isn’t quite like Elite Dangerous where the whole reason many people wished to buy the product was repeatedly lied about.

    I’m hoping for great things with this game, but have to say that it’s only recently the game seems to have developed. There seemed to be a long period with few updates.

  18. Baines says:

    This is a situation of two perennial crowdfunding problems, not one.

    It isn’t just that inXile is guilty of poor communication. They only found themselves in that position because of another perennial problem, over-promising. Like many Kickstarters, inXile apparently set their goal price points too low. This isn’t just one or two goals being cut, and it isn’t just driven by story development.

    Changing your promised second major city to another location is story driven. Cutting extra companions because you want to better develop the ones you already have is a management and resource issue.

    The really bad thing is that this *is* a perennial problem with Kickstarters, including ones that involve established industry figures and groups. And it is particularly a problem with stretch goals, as campaign runners to often treat stretch goal promises as less important than the regular game promises.

    I’m not saying inXile is wrong to be cutting stretch goals for the sake of the overall game quality. What I’m saying is that inXile shouldn’t have gotten itself into that situation from the start. It also sounds like they haven’t necessarily even learned what about the whole situations was actually wrong, as their takeaway lesson was to just be more vague in the future. (Mind, if you want to stick to “story reasons” as your excuse for cuts, you can’t exactly turn around and say “Oh yeah, we learned not to over-promise, because we needed to ask for a lot more money to actually be able to deliver on what we promised.”)

  19. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    As a backer, who hasn’t played the Beta because spoilers this is disappointing behaviour on their part. Leaving aside the changes, I could care less about stretch goals for a game, and always back on the basis of “I’d like to play the game as first pitched.”

    I don’t view this a deliberate deception, more of sign of poor internal organization. However, they made promises and even though I agree with most of their decisions (except Italian translation) it was not good of them to renege on original goals, without good communication much earlier in the process.

    I ran a fair size dev organization, and realize things change a lot and what you think may work or promised during the design phase (hectic I’m sure during their Kickstarter) often needs changing or even scrapping. But in any case, you need to tell folks about it in a timely and upfront manner, especially those who committed their cash to your project.

  20. Deano2099 says:

    It’s not good that this stuff was cut, but as for them not talking about it- of course they didn’t. Did you see Broken Age? When that was split into two and delayed the number of stories, including on this site, attacking it and calling it a failure before it was even announced with a weird sort of glee.

    They’ve kept it quiet as lon. As possible because if they deliver a great game in a few weeks no one will care. But had the game been labelled as troubled or disappointing six months ago because of dropping some stretch goals, it might have left them dead in the water.

    It’s just too toxic an environment to fess up to your mistakes in gaming these days.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Are you attempting to defend their decision, or explain it?

  21. Glentoran says:

    Given that (based on a cursory glance of about 30 available jobs) the average YEARLY salary for an English/Italian written translator is roughly £20,500, i find it difficult to believe that the “expense” is the real reason for cutting the Italian localisation.

    At £40 per copy, they’d only need to sell 500 or so copies across the entire nation of Italy to make their money back.

    So what’s the real reason?

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Similarly cursory glance at the prices range from $0.08 to $0.11 per word, which amounts to a great deal more than $30k (too lazy to do the $ to £ conversion right now).

    • Yglorba says:

      There is absolutely no hope that a single translator could translate a game of this size in anything remotely approaching a reasonable timeframe. Translation is a lot slower than most people think – generally speaking, it takes longer to translate complicated text than it takes to write it (and Tides was the work of multiple writers over the course of longer than a year.) And just translating the script, of course, doesn’t cover all the costs – you need to test it thoroughly.

      Trying to do it cheaply or by cutting corners results in a cheap, low-quality translation.

  22. laggerific says:

    I personally kickstart these games because I want to see them made. Stretch goals are potentially icing or gravy or whatever, cream cheese for some things.

    Considering the history these guys have creating some of the best games in PC gaming history, and how hit or miss their success has been…Stability issues, save breaking patches, and so on I’m just happy they are making games, and I trust they will do right by the fans.

    Look at how they souped up wasteland 2, which I know they did for console release, but provided to owners for free.

    The beauty of Kickstarter is their continued commitment to their customers. Publishers are why games like toee died on the vine until co8…They just said, fuck the customer. But these guys have committed to providing any extra post release content for free for this fuck up. That’s a hellllllll of a lot better than what you get with the publisher backed games.

    Their biggest mistake is the communication, imo.