Double Fine Still Don’t Have Enough Money For Their Crowdfunded Adventure Game

By Ishaan . July 3, 2013 . 3:10pm

Broken Age, the Double Fine adventure game that popularized Kickstarter in the videogames community, is going through some trouble. Despite having raised $3.3 million in Kickstarter contributions, Double Fine are finding themselves unable to complete the game using that amount of money.

 

Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, who is behind the project, let the game’s backers know via an open letter today, which has been published in full on Gamasutra.

 

“Even though we received much more money from our Kickstarter than we, or anybody anticipated, that didn’t stop me from getting excited and designing a game so big that it would need even more money,” Schafer writes. He adds that he has a specific idea of how large an adventure game should be, and that he finds it difficult to design something smaller in scope than, say, Grim Fandango.

 

Schafer and his team looked at how long it would take for them to execute on their vision, and realized it would take them until 2015 to develop in its entirety. So, here’s the solution they’re proposing:

 

What if we made some modest cuts in order to finish the first half of the game by January instead of July, and then released that finished, polished half of the game on Steam Early Access? Backers would still have the option of not looking at it, of course, but those who were sick of waiting wouldn’t have to wait any more. They could play the first half of the game in January!

 

We were always planning to release the beta on Steam, but in addition to that we now have Steam Early Access, which is a new opportunity that actually lets you charge money for pre-release content. That means we could actually sell this early access version of the game to the public at large, and use that money to fund the remaining game development. The second part of the game would come in a free update a few months down the road, closer to April-May.

 

Schafer goes on to assure all that the delay isn’t due to the development team working slowly. “It’s just taking a while because I designed too much game, as I pretty much always do,” he writes. “But we’re pulling it in, and the good news is that the game’s design is now 100% done, so most of the unknowns are now gone and it’s not going to get any bigger.”

 


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  • riceisnice

    What happens if they don’t meet their goal? Do they just keep all the money? It sounds like to me that they’re being greedy at this point.

    • malek86

      You mean, if they can’t get enough money to finish the game? That’s looking impossible at this point. At most, they would just cut out anything not finished and ship the game as is.

  • seyEliveD

    As someone who has backed several Kickstarter games I find this to be ridiculous. They knew how much money they had and should of scaled the game accordingly. If the game was to be a minimum of 5 million to make, that is what should of been specified.

  • FitzpatrickPhillips

    What? How is that possible? They made a bajillion dollars.

    • subsamuel01

      They used like 500K making that stupid documentary now their asking for more money. This is the problem with kickstarter, their not obligated to use all the money for the game.

  • malek86

    I guess that’s the problem with creative people: if you just let them take the helm without putting someone breathing on their necks all the time, they won’t ever get anything done.

    I have no doubt that Schafer had the best intentions, but I think they could have used a bit more planning. The thing with Kickstarter is that you don’t have to face any risks, so I guess that kinda takes away some of your pressure to deliver the product in a timely manner and without overshooting too much.

    Ah well. Other KS are doing well enough (Leisure Suit Larry just got released apparently without a hitch), so I’m gonna be optimist and say it was an isolated case brought about by the euphoria of getting a lot of money unexpectedly.

    • mirumu

      Yes, and the bar has been raised a little since Double Fine’s original Kickstarter. I don’t think people would be quite as willing to back it today with so little planning on display.

      • malek86

        Yeah, and it shows on the second Kickstarter, which didn’t get nearly as much money, even though it was still successful. People have started to get wary.

  • http://www.segalization.com/ Kuronoa

    Announce a Wii U version, seems like the games that list it as a possible platform skyrocket with support.

  • JustThisOne

    Hmm, I wonder if this is some foreshadowing of what will happen with Massive Chalice. (Which is in pre-production and early design.)

    I genuinely wish the best for them, because it looks like they really want to deliver the best that they can. But it looks like they’ve overestimated how far the funds could go.

    • malek86

      I think Massive Chalice is safer. First, because it’s made by another guy (who I’m going to assume is gonna be a tad more realistic, especially after what happened here). Second, they didn’t blow past their original goal too much. And finally, they even avoided stretch goals and went for a specific sum, which means they had a much clearer vision in mind.

      Schafer’s problem was that he didn’t really have anything in mind yet when he made the Kickstarter. Any other project, as long as they have more focus, shouldn’t incur the same problem (or at least, not after getting funded 10X the original sum – of course any project can end up in trouble if they don’t get too much more than what they asked, in fact I expect it will eventually happen to someone else too).

      • JustThisOne

        That’s a relief to hear you say that on the MC front.

        But yeah, Broken Age isn’t the only thing that’s been screwed by being overfunded on Kickstarter. It’s an awkward situation.

        • malek86

          Mmh, what do you mean, Have there been other problems? I only remember of Star Commando, which didn’t get past its sum much, and blew it all away on physical rewards.

          • JustThisOne

            Well, there was that whole fiasco with Tropes vs Women in Video Games. I feel like it’s not totally her fault that she was overfunded by like, twenty times the amount she expected for a series of Youtube shorts.

            But let’s not dive too deep into this one, because… well.. you know.

            EDIT: Also, kickstarters that end up bankrupting the developer because they’ve miscalculated rewards? I feel terrible for them.

          • mirumu

            I can’t say I have a problem with the Tropes vs Women kickstarter. The level of overfunding was mad, but people who were making the pledges could see that and still gave her their money anyway. I viewed it more as an indication of how much people wanted to see those videos exist, and also that they wanted to support Anita in general.

            Irrespective of whether the videos are good or not, I still respect the intent of the backers.

          • Tarlol

            I agree with you. Lots of people were just pledging out of solidarity. Nothing even wrong with that. Kickstarter is not a store. It’s a place where people throw money at projects they want to happen. People wanted Anita’s videos, so they gave her money – I don’t understand why people think that hurts anyone. She was able to make bigger, more professional videos as a result.

            The problem with overfunding is what the Soul Saga guy calls “scope creep,” which is what it sounds like Tim has encountered. When you start getting lots of money, you start getting lots of ideas, and you plan for them all and then you’ve got this massive house of cards and suddenly it turns out you don’t have enough cash to finish one of the pillars – because you accidentally planned for more than you could finish.

            In Poland they have these restaurants that work sort of like buffets, only at the end the cashier weighs your plate of food and charges you based on the weight you’ve piled up. The overfunding problem, the ‘scope creep’ issue, is basically the same as going through one of these restaurant lines when you’re just too hungry. Never do that btw, the sticker shock is killer.

          • mirumu

            Yes, the Kickstarter campaigns that worry me most are the overly complex and ambitious ones that offer various physical rewards on the side and have only vaguely planned stretch goals. Managing that requires a team, and leadership capable of having the right people focus on the right areas.

            If even one of the elements ends up costing more than expected they could find themselves quickly burning through their funding.

          • malek86

            Well they also had other miscalculations. Read here:

            http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/starcommand/star-command-sci-fi-meets-gamedev-story-for-ios-an/posts/208395

            On the happy ending side, they eventually released the game (a stripped-down version) and it looks like it’s been successful for them, so they got lucky there.

  • Paradox_Arkay

    They’re essentially selling a game with episodic releases now, a la the Walking Dead and other TellTale games. Double Fine has pretty much figured out how to not only make a game with more money than they originally got, but they managed to do so without sucking more money out of the people who already paid during the original Kickstarter. Honestly, Tim should’ve just said that he was going to put half the game up on Steam in order to drum up interest/extra revenue – which is what he’s doing, but it’s being twisted into people thinking Double Fine somehow blew the money they crowdsourced.

    • ChiffonCake

      Ark! Heh, didn’t expect to see you here.

      (this is Moonside)

      • http://ludicrouspower.com/ Skeleton

        All right party city

  • Bloodios

    The guy got more than 8 TIMES what he initially asked for and somehow it turned out that the amount isn’t enough for the him to release a full game. Poor planning at its finest…

    • malek86

      In practice, there was no planning at all. When it got so much more than the original sum, any plan got scrapped for something more ambitious.

      • Altin

        I really feel sorry for all the people that funded this. Tim Schafer is being as lucrative as possible.

        • malek86

          Ah well, in the end we’ll still get the game. Hopefully it will be as good as we hoped when we saw just how much money he made. If not… I suppose that will be a lesson to remember.

          • Altin

            It makes you wonder though – how ambitious and thoughtful was he when he was planning the game before he started the fundraising? And also, he designed a game that is too big? I don’t know but I’d feel quite backstabbed if I was giving him money just to receive one half of the game. Makes you wonder how much of the money he received went into the actual development of the game itself.

          • malek86

            Probably all of it, and it just wasn’t enough. This guy is used to working with publishers, for example Psychonauts cost $12 millions to make. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had little experience of managing a project by himself, especially one smlaler than his usual fare.

          • Altin

            It’s still a comparison between Apples and Oranges – what remains is a fact is the following: The fundraising expected a minimum of 400k which is considerably less than Psychonauts. I think they wont have used that much money for the supposed engine in comparison to Psychonauts. Ah well, guess we will have to wait how this is going to turn out.

          • malek86

            I’m not really sure, but I remember reading that, if the game only got as much money as they had asked, it was going to be a short-ish Flash game. What they have now looks a lot more ambitious, although I’m not sure it would really cost like 6 millions or so (fun fact – The Witcher 2 was made with 8 millions. Smart budgeting at its finest).

          • Altin

            Also, in comparison towards other games that are being fundraised – Soul Saga or even Shroud of the Avatar have an even smaller budget and look quite interesting.

      • Bloodios

        Well, even then, I would expect that the team to start brainstorming on what they want to improve upon the existing material first, then decide on which ideas to keep, and factor in how much it would cost before going ahead with it…

  • ChiffonCake

    This is kind of sad. Not in a “what the fuck” way, but rather a “wow, that sucks for them” way. Double Fine and Tim look like really cool guys, and I’m looking forward to their game, so I hope everything turns out ok for them.

  • British_Otaku

    $3.3 million isn’t an impossibly huge budget for a game, I know.

    I’m still expecting something on the quality level of Duke Nukem Forever (Zero Punctuation’s idealised version not the unfortunate actual title- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx1fglFeX7k )… >_>

    I don’t need to repeat that he has been funded well beyond what we initially asked for even if it is to aim higher (a good idea so nearly $3 million isn’t pocketed away on the basis of them being safe already)…

  • puchinri

    I never recalled seeing the game on Kickstarter (given my own circumstances), but I did see it in Gameinformer or something and it looked incredibly interestingly. Kind of scary and a shame that they somehow ended up not having enough money; sounds like some planning and trimming definitely needs to happen.

    Best of luck to them, but I would kind of question how they planned that after getting the funding.

    • mirumu

      In the initial Kickstarter campaign they didn’t actually say what the game would be. They just called it the Double Fine Adventure, and only talked loosely of where they might take it. They didn’t have any art, music or anything. All very vague.

      In hindsight it sounds kind of crazy to have given them the money (I am a backer B.T.W), but I think at the time everyone backed it in part because they trusted Schaefer would make a good game if he didn’t have a publisher breathing down his neck, and also to see if crowd funding a larger game could be viable. Time has proven crowd funding can work, but I really don’t think people would be so willing to back such a vague game with so little pre-planning today.

      • puchinri

        Ahh, okay. I think I do remember that, then.

        Haha. I think if they were people I felt I could trust, I’d realize giving them the money looks wacky, but I would back it too.

        Was this their first project without a publisher? Maybe that’s part of why the planning is so. . . off? The game looks great though, and I certainly hope it sees completion and everyone gets their backings worth. I want to buy it myself when it’s finally completed and released.

        • mirumu

          Yes, this really was the first of the high profile crowd funded games. Even Double Fine’s own more recent Kickstarter for Massive Chalice had a lot more advance planning, and a lot more information to show.

          • puchinri

            I see~. Well, that does make a difference then.

      • malek86

        Not so sure myself. Perhaps not to that amount, but Double Fine and Schafer in particular are still pretty much industry darlings, they would still get money even if they just said “hey, guys, there’s a 25% chance I’ll make a game!”.

        I just trust that he’s learned that crowdfunding is not the solution to all evil and you still need to actually be careful with money. What would have happened if Steam didn’t allow for Early Access yet? Would they have just cut a lot of the game? I suppose so.

  • TheHolypopeofgaming

    Double Fine could Rob a bank…still wouldn’t be enough

  • wfgodbold

    FFS, Tim Schafer. This is why you can’t have nice things.

  • Derek E Nay

    … really? I mean REALLY? No wonder developers did not want to fund that game. I know about trying to be creative; but when you have that amount of money and say that you need more to be more “creative” otherwise the game will not come out then something is wrong. Sorry; but it almost sounds like they used too much money on other things then the game.

  • 60hz

    :-/ color me not surprised.

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