Overgrowth’s final update feels like the end of an era

Overgrowth

September 17th, 2008, nearly a full decade ago. That’s when Wolfire Games first announced anthropomorphic animal brawler Overgrowth, and now it’s due to receive its final update – version 1.3. While Wolfire would go on to be better known for their Humble Bundles (eventually selling the Humble brand to IGN), I feel that Overgrowth and its decade of development is an important part of independent games history, and following its creation from the beginning taught me much of what I know about the realities of game development today.

Wolfire always were firm believers in open and public development. Over the course of dozens upon dozens of development update videos and blog posts, they charted the creation of a bespoke and powerful little game engine, along with an editing tool-set that almost anyone can produce something playable with. Watching these videos and playing along with every pre-order alpha build released was an education in of itself, and I don’t regret putting money down on the game early, even if it took the better part of a decade for the game to be officially finished.

In the end, not too many people loved the Overgrowth that was eventually released, with our man Fraser thinking that it wasn’t ready for the big leagues in his review last year. As polished and detailed as Overgrowth was in many regards, it was still a direct sequel to Lugaru: The Rabbit’s Foot, a quirky little game from 2005 built around high-impact melee combat (and little else) across often bleak and desolate environments. Traits carried over wholesale to Overgrowth.

After launch, Wolfire made some improvements to the game, including remastering and integrating an entire fan-made campaign, but nothing fundamental to its mechanics. Version 1.3 (shown above) feels like a final bit of polish, mostly focused on improving controller input, making more controls rebindable, and opening the door for future fan-made translations, should anyone feel so inclined.

Overgrowth is 40% discounted down to £13.79/$18 in the Steam summer sale, and retains a small but dedicated (and highly creative) community, only just concluding their latest level creation jam a week ago. You can find the full patch notes for version 1.3 here, and I wish Wolfire luck and a rabbit’s spring in their step on whatever they choose to work on next.

29 Comments

  1. DatonKallandor says:

    I kinda hope their next Project is a long-form version of Receiver. Receiver just screams “make me into a real game”, because nothing else comes close to how good the gun-handling feels in that.

    • Luringen says:

      H3VR is basically Receiver but in VR. Fumbling with what guns have which fire-selectors, bolts, safeties, etc. is good fun :)

    • Touchstone says:

      Receiver is great. Though I’d say that the gun-handling feeling great doesn’t mean it feels realistic. It’s substantially simpler to operate a pistol in real life. The details may be identical, but the ergonomics of a keyboard are worse than a pistol for using a pistol. I really wanted to see Receiver made into a VR game, so I’ll be checking out H3VR.

      • Zenicetus says:

        It’s easier to operate a pistol in real life, because you just learn it in “muscle memory” and don’t think about it.

        What the game lacks, is all the other physical effects like increased heart rate and breathing after running, which spoils your aim until you can catch your breath and steady your aim. I don’t think many (any?) shooters have modeled that, anywhere near what it’s like to actually fire weapons under physical stress.

        • Viral Frog says:

          theHunter: Call of the Wild models breathing / heart rate. If you can hit something while out of breath/increased heart rate, it’s pure luck.

        • Cinek says:

          New theHunter and Star Citizen both simulate this in quite a decent way.

          IMHO the biggest issue with H3VR is lack of pistol controllers for VR available. Which is particularly bad with Vive’s wands, they’re really bad for guns. Next generation knuckles controllers should be much better, but still, no recoil… VR really needs some officially supported gun controllers with proper switches, not some 3rd party constantly in development.

  2. Axolotl says:

    Back when the game was still called Lugaru, I would download it every couple of months, enjoy the combat mechanics, then uninstall after failing to pass the level where you had to face something like three wolves simultaneously. It never seemed to change. I’m honestly surprised it was developed further, and that it was actually released.

  3. BlacKHeaDSg1 says:

    I hoped that this would become full RPG game with this kind of combat (maybe even a different combat trees and specialization). It looks like a cool idea with wolfs and rabbits instead of humans but … oh well.

  4. Kyle700 says:

    ah man, i’ve always wondered why Humble Bundles suddenly became much, much worse at a certain point. The Humble Indie Bundle was one of the best deals I’ve ever found while gaming, the first 7-8 packs were great. Now, it is a general, crappy store just like everywhere else, and the original idea behind the humble bundle has been perverted and changed to work for the major developers in search of profit. I stopped supporting them when it became clear that the message and goal of the project had changed, but I wasn’t ever sure why that had happened.

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      There were a couple of turning points:

      1. Raising the minimum for Steam keys to $1 (death of Humble)
      2. EA Origin Bundle, which set sales records (death of Indie)
      3. $15 tiers which usually had the only game worth getting (death of Bundle)

      The sale to IGN came quite a bit after the decline. But in short, the model proved profitable, so they chose to monetize it hard.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        They may have lost that special something they used to have where each new bundle was an event… but they still often have good deals, both indie games and other stuff (recently got VEGA Pro for $20, pretty happy about that). Limiting Steam keys was an understandable move to counter scammers buying keys in bulk so they can just resell them elsewhere, which is plainly not what those bundles are for.

      • Crafter says:

        how is the 1$ minimum to get steam keys an issue ?
        It seems very fair to me.

        • Baines says:

          Because people saw “pay what you want” as “pay a penny and still get everything”.

          Even though Humble was losing money on penny purchases. (At that point, the payment processing fees were higher than the payment being processed.)

          • April March says:

            Yeah. The minimum requirement for Steam keys was necessary to prevent abuse. Plenty of games could still be bought for a penny; you just didn’t get a Steam key, only a download.

            If you want a ‘death of Humble’, I’ve got one: the introduction of fixed-price high tiers. Before that, you got a few good games, and a few more when you beat the average. Not only did the high tier remove what was usually the best games, but they also increased the average, increasing what you needed to pay to get your money’s worth.

    • Crafter says:

      I have felt that at some point, I just had all the great indie games already anyway !

      At first Humble allowed me to get all the great indie games of the past 10 years, but soon bundles became very common and I collected all of them.

      So new bundles started to contain more and more games that I had already bought.

      I don’t know how I feel about game bundles to be honest.

      It injects some much needed cash and has saved some indie devs

      But just like sales in other industries like clothing, it can result in a vicious circle where it changes the customer perception of pricing and leads to a race to the bottom.

  5. haldolium says:

    I had the impression that the Humble Bundle activity was a major influence in why Overgrowth took ten years, at the very least 5 too many, to be what it is today. There were huge gaps where nothing happened and while I always enjoyed the videos acompaning the development process, in the end it was always too little (but it showed precisely why vg development can be awfully hard and time consuming)

    I enjoyed the game for a few early releases back 8 (?) years ago or so after I followed it for a while and finally bought it, but I lost interest in it rather soon. The “final” release last year hadn’t done much on the core principle to reinvest more time.

    It’s a quirky little game and somewhat unique in how open the development was, but as a game itself it sadly doesn’t hold up unless you’re really into bunnyslashing I guess.

    • Crafter says:

      I feel the same way.

      I can think of many big innovative games where deadlines and technical limitations have forced the devs to innovate and push themselves.

      It looks like the lugaru team has an infinite time budget and just decided to implement whatever cool tech they had in mind from scratch.

      It lead to a kinda cool engine and some great posts but a game I have not even bothered to play to since its release.

  6. Baines says:

    I don’t regret spending money on Overgrowth; I’ve said in the past that the dev videos alone had earned the fee.

    At the same time, Overgrowth always felt like the “game” itself was never a big concern. Most of Overgrowth’s development time was spent on the engine itself, editing tools, and some “in a vacuum” mechanical features like combat and platforming. The world building and campaign work didn’t come until the end, looking more like afterthoughts.

    And, honestly, I’m not that big a fan of the results. It is a design that wasn’t going to be more than the sum of its parts, but not only are some of those parts kind of weak, I’m not entirely uncertain that I’d say some parts actually lose a bit when combined into the whole.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I feel similarly: never really got into the game itself, and grew puzzled that they never seemed to be working on levels and story much until the very end, and you do feel that lack of focus (in that area) in the final game… but the video devlogs were incredibly inspiring: 100% the reason I started doing videos for my own projects.

  7. BooleanBob says:

    The story to this game is one of the most unpleasant and misanthropic things I’ve ever experienced. Revenge fantasy porn where every character you meet either has a family stuffed in the fridge or is acting under duress of an imminent family fridging.

    It really illustrated how a mishandled narrative lays bare the absurdity of spinning stories out of violent game mechanics.

  8. BockoPower says:

    Now all that’s left from that era is Project Zomboid to be finished as well.

  9. Uncle Fass says:

    Where does it say that this is the last update? I can’t find anything anywhere.

    • Kitsunin says:

      link to blog.wolfire.com

      The 1.3 update for Overgrowth is now available. This will be the final update of Overgrowth for now, and we will be pausing development on the game.

      • Baines says:

        So the RPS article is wrong. 1.3 is not the official final update, it is only officially the final update “for now”. Development hasn’t officially ended, but has only officially been paused.

        Yeah, I said “official” a lot. It wouldn’t necessarily be right to not include those qualifiers, not when companies so often use wordings such as “for now” and “paused” as PR-speak for “no more”.

        • Dominic Tarason says:

          There’s still the possibility of the developers coming back to update it at some later date, but that usually doesn’t happen after an announcement like that.

        • kavika says:

          We’re all working on a new (unannounced) game. With 4 of us at the company, it seemed like a good idea to stop splitting our attention between two games, at least until the new game is shipped.

          David doesn’t like to set decisions in stone until he can focus on them, and he’s very busy focusing on the new game right now.

          So, no promises either way. Barring any hotfixes for 1.3 that we might have to do, the article is correct for the time being.

  10. kavika says:

    > While Wolfire would go on to be better known for their Humble Bundles (eventually selling the Humble brand to IGN).

    The idea of Humble Bundles definitely originated at Wolfire. But Humble Bundle spun off into its own company a very long time before it was sold to IGN. I don’t know exactly when the split happened (I wasn’t at Wolfire back then), but it was sometime around the very first bundles back in 2010 (maybe during or after the OG + NS2 bundle?).

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