As attempts to get a struggling studio back on track go, publishing "a silly (and trashy at times) game that had LGBT pirates, forced transgender striptease and a Nobel laureate in literature as a game character" is a surprising move. That's precisely what Eador creators Snowbird Games did though, releasing The Zombiest Adventures In The Perverted Age of Enlightenment With a Pinch of Woodpunk [Steam page], only to pull it from sale six days later.
The last few months have been difficult for Snowbird. Before reaching The Perverted Age of Enlightenment, they lost most of their dev team in March, and have been looking for ways to revitalise the company ever since.
Snowbird's new administration swept in on March 30th, and here's their explanation as to why they let the dev team go:
"Reasons for this being the unsatisfactory results of Eador. Imperium, as well as the slow development rates of Blood & Gold: Caribbean! — two primary projects of the studio. Right at the start of 2017 the investor did an independent code examination and had a talk with developers. As a result, it was decided to let go of the people behind both of these projects and invite new specialists."
They've been pretty frank and sensible about some of the problems with those two games as they decided their next steps. Examining Blood & Gold, which borrows the engine and fundamentals of TaleWorlds Entertainment's Mount & Blade games then adds pirates, the new administration pick at its "lack of focus", technical problems, and "incorrect" marketing. They conclude:
"A very complicated and content-heavy project was based on the outdated technology. The problem in this case lies with the management who took decision regarding the game's concept and its engine."
Oof. They've since started patching it to make the best of a bad situation. It has been a long mess. We had a look when the game first launched into early access under the name Caribbean! in 2014, when it wasn't in the best state. Snowbird cut a lot of planned features to squeeze it out of early access in February 2015, but players weren't best pleased so a few months later Snowbird expanded and relaunched it as Blood & Gold: Caribbean.
And that brings us to The Zombiest Adventures In The Perverted Age of Enlightenment With a Pinch of Woodpunk. Made by Orgs Studio, it was a survival-tinged Mount & Blade 'em up set in a wacky 17th century zombie apocalypse. Snowbird chose to publish it in April but the reception wasn't warm. Complaints aren't about the silliness, more that it's too stripped-down for a M&B 'em up, buggy, and just not fun. Six days after launch, Snowbird stopped selling the game.
"Well, it's pretty safe to say this experiment did not turn out too well," they said.
"Our plan was pretty straightforward — its main point was not to compete with mods that 'have a bit of everything'. So instead ORGS Studio made a silly (and trashy at times) game that had LGBT pirates, forced transgender striptease and a Nobel laureate in literature as a game character in it. Reviews showed there's some people who would be into this kind of stuff, but the majority of players just weren't very impressed by this idea.
"We think the game is pretty good, most players don't — there's no point in arguing, so we've decided to stop selling The Zombiest Adventures on Steam and return money to everybody who purchased it."
A dead game is truly the Zombiest.
Eador is Snowbird's flagship series but its latest version is wonky enough that they feel a need to add large features months after launch. They have a history with Mount & Blade, having worked on the official standalone expansion With Fire & Sword too, but all of their Mount & Blade 'em ups have had their share of problems. Trying stranger things rather than building on their existing experience might not be the most sensible option right now. Their commitment to improvements might see them build a firm foundation for future games but their investors will need to have patience and deep pockets.