Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Tim Schafer

Tim answers questions on v1.0

269 posts in this topic

Hi everybody. I want to apologize for the delayed response from me on recent announcement of Spacebase v1.0. Most of Double Fine’s publishing staff and I are currently attending Fantastic Arcade in Austin, TX, and have been trying our best to keep up with the situation via our phones while we’re on the road. But now that I finally have time to sit down with a laptop, I’d like to answer some representative questions we’ve seen on these forums.

Here’s the first question!

“How about an ACTUAL explanation of what happened behind the scenes?”

We started Spacebase with an open ended-production plan, hoping that it would find similar success (and therefore funding) to the alpha-funded games that inspired it. Some of its early sales numbers indicated this might be the case, but slowly things changed, and it became clear that this was looking like a year and a half of production instead of five or so. With each Alpha release there was the hope that things would change, but they didn't. We put every dime we made from Spacebase back into Spacebase, and then we put in some more. Obviously, spending more money than we were making isn’t something we can afford to do forever. So, as much as we tried to put off the decision, we finally had to change gears and put Spacebase into finishing mode and plan for version 1.0.

“What happened to the devplan? What happened to the beta stage? How can ANY game go from Alpha 6 to a “finished” 1.0?”

In traditional development, “Beta” refers to a time when no new features are added but bugs are fixed. Things are different in early access where the game is in players’ hands at an earlier state, so the team has been fixing bugs all along as features are added. In the remaining dev time, there will be both bug fixes and new features so it’s true--calling it “beta” is a little inaccurate. But the amount of time fixing bugs is comparable to that of a traditionally-developed game.

“I thought you said you weren’t going to silently pull the plug?”

We are not silently pulling the plug. We are announcing our finishing features and v1.0 plan. I know it's not a lot of advance notice, but we're still here telling you our plan instead of vanishing quietly in the night.

“If you were going to end development, why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

One of the biggest lessons we have learned in this, our first early access title, is about communication. There should have been more communication to the players about the state of the game, and we apologize for that. But for us, it was never clear whether development was going to end because we always hoped that the next update would turn it around and allow us to extend development. So I suppose, ultimately, the answer was we always had hope we weren’t going to end it, until the end.

“Why put the game on sale (while internally knowing that development of the game was stopping)?”

Frequent sales are part of the Steam marketplace. We’ve had multiple sales throughout the game’s early access period in attempts to create a bigger audience for the game. As for the version of the game that people bought in this most recent sale, we are still working on it, fixing bugs and adding the final features to make the 1.0 version of Spacebase a fun and complete game.

I understand that the recent announcement was a disappointment. It was for you, and it was for us. We wanted to keep working on Spacebase for years. But Spacebase spends more money than it brings in, and that’s just not something we can afford to do any more. Set up against the expectation of the game being in development as long as Prison Architect or Dwarf Fortress, it’s hard not to find fault in the game by comparison. But we continued to sell the game, and will continue to sell the game, because we feel that based solely on its own merits, Spacebase DF9 is still a fun, clever, hilarious, beautiful and complete game.

It’s hard for me to see JP and his team get eviscerated on these forums, after I’ve watched them put their blood, sweat, and tears into Spacebase for the last year and a half. Telling you that they are hard-working and talented developers who toiled in good faith to create this unique work of entertainment probably isn’t going to change your minds about how you feel about this game. But I hope you might at least consider that no one is more disappointed than them that they will not be able to work on this game for years and years to come for reasons mostly out of their control.

We have stumbled awkwardly through some new territory with this game, and in terms of early access communication we fell short. But we are still proud of the game in the end, and are happy to have it on the roster of Double Fine titles. I hope you are able to reserve judgment on version 1.0 until it comes out, and then enjoy it for the unique and entertaining experience that it is.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for playing Spacebase.

-Tim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Over one hour and no responses!

I've got a question. Understanding that this is a hard time for everyone, what can those of us who still feel positive about the project to do show support and best wishes for the team?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim (and the rest of Double Fine), I'm sorry for the way I directed those questions/comments at you guys. I was just a bit shocked about the whole thing & might've taken it a bit far. I was too blinded by my frustration & upset to even think how you guys were probably feeling about the whole situation. Again, I'm sorry. You guys still are one of my favorite developers :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This should not be considered an adequate response. I understand that the game was not making as much (in early access) as expected, but the answer should not be taking the money and running. This is an admission that the original promise is not being kept. Perhaps if there was a focus on development when a proper release was made, sales might have picked up then? Is Double Fine's new model to ALWAYS profit or else customers are left holding the bag? This will dramatically effect how I view any product from Double Fine and now I understand Tim's viewpoint that any game is eligible for cancellation if the community does not invest enough prior to finishing. I invested in Spacebase back in Alpha 3 because I trusted Double Fine not to do exactly this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aww, too bad. The game was a lot of fun. I'm going to have to try to get the code to work on my own. See what I can add. Hope JP and the SpaceBase team get to work on something else fun now. Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This should not be considered an adequate response. I understand that the game was not making as much (in early access) as expected, but the answer should not be taking the money and running.

I have to take issue with your term, "taking the money and running." We took the money and invested it back into Spacebase. And then we invested more. We will not make money, or even break even, on this game.

This is an admission that the original promise is not being kept.

The biggest lesson for us here, and what we would be sure to do if we were to try early access again, is to clarify exactly what the "original promise" is at the beginning of the project for every one to see. We thought the open ended nature of the projects development was clear, but it was not clear enough, obviously.

Perhaps if there was a focus on development when a proper release was made, sales might have picked up then?

You're saying that if we had put more people on the project it would have been more successful? That is likely to be true. But people aren't free. And so we could only put as many people on the team as we had the money to pay.

Is Double Fine's new model to ALWAYS profit or else customers are left holding the bag? This will dramatically effect how I view any product from Double Fine and now I understand Tim's viewpoint that any game is eligible for cancellation if the community does not invest enough prior to finishing. I invested in Spacebase back in Alpha 3 because I trusted Double Fine not to do exactly this.

No, this is obviously not the plan for all games. Obvious since most of our games are not early access. But even if they were, we would be clear about which scope of the game is securely funded, and which portion is dependent on early access funding.

Thanks for your questions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Has anyone talked about what will be allowed with expanding the game? For example with Bad Golf Community Edition we were totally separate. I'd like you guys to think about if we can load it into github or something officially and fork it, or if it's more an on our own kinda thing where we have to build moai from source. Loved the AF prototype, really enjoy the current game, so I look forward to playing around. (this goes for HackNslash too, but off topic)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not all experiments are successful. I can't fault DF for trying. Fun pills and sleds for all.

Smiles

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We put every dime we made from Spacebase back into Spacebase, and then we put in some more. after I’ve watched them put their blood, sweat, and tears into Spacebase for the last year and a half.

-Tim

im happy with what i got.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it would have been better not to release the game and just leave it at 1.0 for those who own the game , lets see whats going to happen when the game launches out of early access

- The reviews for the full game will extremely negative , game might end up having the lowest score of all double fine games so far , unless 1.0 release is a super release that makes the game close to its original goal.

- The game prospects of bringing better sales is close to nothing after this announcement , i can already see the user made tag abandoned being put for this.

The only thing that i can imagine that could help the game is , it finding a great community of modders , who release content that might make the game better , at least make that effort of adding steam workshop, achievements and whatever possible in steamworks to the game before dumping it out so that the users can have easy access to mods made for this game later and have some fun with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to paraphrase a question I got on the steam forums because I think it raises an important point. Basically, someone asked:

"Why didn't you allocate more resources to Spacebase? Were the other developers not interested in helping? Couldn't you have handled this better, like Prison Architect?"

Every employee has to be funded by something: A publisher deal, a kickstarter, an outside investor, or the sales of our games. (The last item is not a huge amount, and sometimes not there at all, so really the answer is the first three.)

All of the resources you're asking us to throw at Spacebase are currently funded by one of those first three things. How would Midnight City feel we took a programmer they paid for to work on Costume Quest 2, and sent them to work on Spacebase? Would it be right to take someone paid for by the Massive Chalice backers and put them on Spacebase?

People on Spacebase, if not funded by the original Indie Fund investment, have to be funded by Spacebase revenue. Or any money that we have sitting in the bank, which in our case is not much. Still we have put a lot of that kind of money into the game as well.

And the biggest difference between Prison Architect and Spacebase? A lot more people bought Prison Architect. If you really want to compare Spacebase to another early access game, you need to find a similar story of a game that did not sell as well as was expected. How did they handle the lack of funds? We've tried to handle this difficult situation as well as possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your reply, Tim.

Recap: I didn't know what to expect when pledging for Double Fine adventure, besides knowing you did the great Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango. I watched the pitch video with Ron in it and the deal was done. When Ron put a shoe on his head in the countdown transmissions you did from the office, it further convinced me we had a great duo with fantastic legacies on our hands, making a great new adventure.

Then I discovered Ron wasn't at all involved in Double Fine adventure. Strange. Then the updates surrounding the project began to slip despite the promises in the Kickstarter. I posted my worries early on in the forums. Then the game got split up and part two put on hold for an unknown amount of time. What was supposed to come out in 2012 we still haven't got, and as I don't play episodic games where all episodes aren't out, I can't yet tell if it's a good game or not. I hope it is, of course.

Information or communication from you (maybe besides Massive Chalice) nowadays are scarce and far between, not at all what I anticipated. You managed to build up a relationship with your customers through Kickstarter and Amnesia Fortnight, but as far as I'm concerned that is all gone now. You can't live on memories alone.

During this time I bought just about every game you released that I didn't already own, and also both Amnesia Fortnights. All because of your early work getting people involved in the happenings and doings of the great people of Double Fine.

Your handling (or perhaps lack of) of Spacebase DF-9 isn't what I expected and I'm frankly saddened by the whole thing. I reflected upon what's happened earlier on and have come to terms with that Double Fine wasn't what I was led to believe. I have a hard time grasping that Spacebase DF-9 is to be fixed, final and complete in a month, but with the wordings in your latest newsletter I hope it's not empty promises, or you'll get more angry customers to handle.

However, what saddens me the most is that I lost all interest in ever playing Broken Age. I sincerely hope that will change if, or when, part 2 is released.

I wish you all the best.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim, question.

Would the dev team consider opening Spacebase up to Steam Workshop at this point?

At the very least, people could easily mod in anything they wanted. It's not going to assuage the people who are miffed, but it's a pretty good band aid. It would also allow for a sort of player driven development of features.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tim, question.

Would the dev team consider opening Spacebase up to Steam Workshop at this point?

At the very least, people could easily mod in anything they wanted. It's not going to assuage the people who are miffed, but it's a pretty good band aid. It would also allow for a sort of player driven development of features.

They're going to be releasing the entire Lua sourcecode of the game and will allow for fan mods to be run (both things have already been done with Hack N Slash, so it will probably be done for Spacebase DF-9 in a similar fashion).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If they lost money on this title (something I believe entirely), then they are merely incompetent planners. This is clear from every title they've released.

They do not know how to handle development scheduling or money.

The most outrageous thing about this is how damaging it is to the image of early access as a platform. You sold a vision, an idea -- and not only did you not pull through, you completely short-changed the consumer.

Sounds like Broken Age.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well... what can I say?

I just want to say thank you for finally giving us all of the answers to the questions we asked. It feels good to know whats going on, I just would have wished something like this would have come earlier and leave a more honourfull goodbye or end to the Spacebase-project, while the announcements before have just resulted in a massive loss of trust for this company. I would just wish for a more open communication in the future, since I would have been ready to pay another 50, maybe 100 $ for this game if anybody would have told me what is really happening a little bit earlier.

I have just put in so much effort in the last few months for this game in the forums with reporting a lot of bugs, advertising, showing and playing this game with my friends, writing about the metagame or helping newbies by giving them tips or learning from other good players and it left a bad taste on my tongue to get treated like we are too stupid to understand what the "road to 1.0"-post really meant and what information it refused to give us. Please understand that.

I am not mad anymore, since we got an explanation that helps us to understand the situation. I just fear that there could have been a better end to this game and it future might would have been better. I hope version 1.0 will be good and that programming the modifications won't be too hard. I will publish my threads about the psychology and traits part and the story ideas nontheless when I get home to maybe at least give you some good ideas of what could round up the game a little bit before release.

Thank you for your answers and your effort.

-Ben

P.S. A few savegame slots would be one of the greatest things for the final game, so that I can let my nephew or anyone else play this game without having to explain them the savegame moving or removing technique :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Tim for answering. In my opinion, it is far too risky to rely on early access to fund a game. Most people (like me) will never buy an unfinished game just to support development, they want a finished product which they can judge (i was waiting for a polished 1.0). I dont know how you could assume updates would boost the sales, most people dont even take notice, its not like the average customer on steam is frequently checking some minor updates on indie games. Nowadays, there is a huge inflation of indie games, early access, 1$ bundles etc, which makes it very risky to rely on those mechanisms. My advice is: If you dont have the money to develop a game (either from kickstarter, revenues from earlier games, publisher ...) then dont do it! Chance of failure is high, and you will damage your reputation considerably, affecting the sales of your other projects.

I backed broken age, and while i cannot blame you for not delivering what i wanted (i expected something different from an 'oldschool p&c', and dont like the art style either), i am not satisfied with the way the project is organised there. For the result i can see, it takes way too long and is way too expensive. I believe that developing games in SF is expensive, so maybe its not the right place to do it there? Has been brought up many times, but other developers would have released 5 nice adventure games for your budget (daedalic, king art ... life and hiring is not much cheaper in Germany).

DF must be really close with the back to the wall, so i hope you can turn it around somehow, because i like your ideas and love your older titles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Tim: Thanks for the lengthy answer. It was needed, and it contained many of the answers we wanted.

I want to give credit to the team for the effort they put in the game. Sometimes things don't work out as one hope, and while the game wasn't a success, it's not a failure either.

One question though: Why did you put out a statement in the form of "look how far we come!", instead of being openly honest as both you and JP have been now? Was it some kind of damage control, or am I just missing some point with it? When I read it, my reaction was "yeah right, who are you trying to kid?", and that was a dissapointment for me, seeing something like that from Double Fine.

I liked that DF gave it their best shot with Spacebase, and would have no problem seeing you try Early Access or some other kind of crowdfunding again, but I want to see explanations like these ones sooner if or when things like this happens again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the post Tim! Having listened to/participated in multiple interviews with the DF staff, it's pretty clear everyone really do love what they're doing. It's a damn shame that Spacebase development have to stop, but I've had a ton of fun with even the first version of the game, and I most definitely will continue to be entertained by 1.0!

Much love and support from me to the Spacebase team <3! Will quite sad not seeing their posts on my Tumblr dashboard anymore.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Tim: thanks for the post and answering the questions. Also thanks to JP and the Spacebase DF-9 team for the effort and doing everything they can to make an enjoyable experience.

I hope this issue doesn't prevent Double Fine from experimenting and being creative as usual in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reply, Tim. It's about what I thought happened. I don't blame DF for shutting down the project, but I do think that DF needs to work heavily on its communication skills.

For one thing, sure you're all busy at Fantastic Arcade, but this kind of announcement shouldn't have been made in the first place at a time when the company big shots can't respond.

Secondly, the announcement shouldn't have been sugarcoated. What you said in explanation here should have been in the announcement in the first place. Start by telling your fans that you're sorry, that it's been a hard decision and all that stuff, then go to describe how you're trying to make the best of it. People would still be angry, but at least they won't feel insulted.

Communicate often. If you have a project in the open, be it Broken Age or Spacebase DF-9, make sure that people know what's happening. Have someone post on a weekly basis. Even if there's not much to say, that tells people you haven't disappeared, that you still care about your fans.

Communicate honestly. People who buy early access or pledge on Kickstarters are fans, and they want you to succeed. Sure some will get angry when they get the feeling you might not give them the game they've been waiting for, but others will rally for the game, try to get others to buy it, offer suggestions or even money. Why ignore your biggest fans just because you're afraid of the negative reactions?

If you're going to continue with projects where people pay money up front, create rules (like what I posted here) and adhere to them. You didn't do a good job with Broken Age in it latter days, and didn't do a good job here. There will always be problems, and delays, and hard decisions. Learn to integrate them with the openness of the project instead of having them cause you to shut down communication.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0