Sign in to follow this  
Tim Schafer

Tim answers questions on v1.0

Recommended Posts

Inefficient or not, 400k worth of development time is hard to do in your spare time, unless you have lots of spare cash. 40 man months would be several years of time without a dedicated crew.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only thing I can reply to this, DF will hurt from this.

I enjoy(ed) being a beta-backer, but Space Base added the last drop to a barrel that's already filled to the rim with disappointment.

Future games (not only DF ones) being offered as early access will have to survive an extra harsh scrutiny, sadly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Inefficient or not, 400k worth of development time is hard to do in your spare time, unless you have lots of spare cash. 40 man months would be several years of time without a dedicated crew.

Perhaps that in itself should have been a message, no?

A 400k prototype is a serious gamble. If you don't have the money to put in yourself, you shouldn't be getting over optimistic with customer expectations either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Inefficient or not, 400k worth of development time is hard to do in your spare time, unless you have lots of spare cash. 40 man months would be several years of time without a dedicated crew.

Perhaps that in itself should have been a message, no?

A 400k prototype is a serious gamble. If you don't have the money to put in yourself, you shouldn't be getting over optimistic with customer expectations either.

You know I agree. Early access shouldn't be used unless you can fund Alpha 1 in such a way that you can spend all EA funds on future development. And if you can't figure out a way to do that, don't make Alpha 1. Certainly don't commit to such a major funding deal before you know how development is going. I like DF too much to stay angry at them, but like you it makes me furious how "exploitatebly" good of a deal Indie Fund got. If they actually got 25% profits after the initial 400k, I think that's borderline fraud.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Inefficient or not, 400k worth of development time is hard to do in your spare time, unless you have lots of spare cash. 40 man months would be several years of time without a dedicated crew.

Perhaps that in itself should have been a message, no?

A 400k prototype is a serious gamble. If you don't have the money to put in yourself, you shouldn't be getting over optimistic with customer expectations either.

You know I agree. Early access shouldn't be used unless you can fund Alpha 1 in such a way that you can spend all EA funds on future development. And if you can't figure out a way to do that, don't make Alpha 1. Certainly don't commit to such a major funding deal before you know how development is going. I like DF too much to stay angry at them, but like you it makes me furious how "exploitatebly" good of a deal Indie Fund got. If they actually got 25% profits after the initial 400k, I think that's borderline fraud.

That's about as modest a funding deal that you can get in the games industry. If they'd approached a publisher they might be looking at a deal involving 70% of the profits to the publisher after recouping DOUBLE the investment, and that would probably be permanent, rather than limited to 2 years or after another 400k of profit, whichever comes first.

The Indie Fund was set up as an alternate funding model to this. Even STEAM takes more than 25%. And that's just a shopfront.

Also, as repeatedly stated, we've known this was Indie Fund funded since day 1, and the terms of the deal are public, rather than private (which would be the case for most forms of funding) so actually this isn't only not fraudulent, it's one of the most transparent forms of funding possible, with the possible exception of crowdfunding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as I can tell, indie fund's terms do not refer to early access, so the logical assumption is that it applies to finished games. From my read of early access, it seems to suggest that EA funds go to development and are silent as to past development, again the consumer's assumption that it applies to future development. I don't think it was obvious, even if you dug in, that indie's interpretation of sales included early access. It wasn't transparent to me that if the game sold only 15k copies, double fine would have said, "OK, thanks for helping us develop part of Alpha 1, but we don't have enough to do literally any more development." They made their profits off of people paying for what they thought was going toward future development. And I don't think it's obvious from early access faq or indie's terms and conditions that they were entitled to early access funds, not to mention that neither the deal or the amount were advertised on the steam ea page.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As far as I can tell, indie fund's terms do not refer to early access, so the logical assumption is that it applies to finished games. From my read of early access, it seems to suggest that EA funds go to development and are silent as to past development, again the consumer's assumption that it applies to future development. I don't think it was obvious, even if you dug in, that indie's interpretation of sales included early access. It wasn't transparent to me that if the game sold only 15k copies, double fine would have said, "OK, thanks for helping us develop part of Alpha 1, but we don't have enough to do literally any more development." They made their profits off of people paying for what they thought was going toward future development. And I don't think it's obvious from early access faq or indie's terms and conditions that they were entitled to early access funds, not to mention that neither the deal or the amount were advertised on the steam ea page.

The standard repayment terms are this:

"Repayment. Developer shall pay to Indie Fund one hundred percent (100%) of the gross revenue received by Developer from the licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of the Game (“Gross Revenue”) and fifty percent (50%) of the gross revenue received by Developer from the licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of any work based upon or derived from the Game, until the total amount paid by Developer to Indie Fund equals the Loan. Games that share only technology with the Game are not considered derivative works."

Early Access sales are still game sales as they include the game in its current state plus all future versions. An investor wouldn't invest in something like this without the expectation of being able to recoup their investment from all sales. The contract doesn't have to make special mention of early access, 'licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of the Game' is catch-all terminology for 'however you sell this thing, we recoup the investment first (which they did, in 2 weeks).

It's possible that this was not clear enough to some people, but what it wasn't, was 'fraudulent'. Indie Fund is one of the most transparent funding groups in existence.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The standard repayment terms are this:

"Repayment. Developer shall pay to Indie Fund one hundred percent (100%) of the gross revenue received by Developer from the licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of the Game (“Gross Revenue”) and fifty percent (50%) of the gross revenue received by Developer from the licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of any work based upon or derived from the Game, until the total amount paid by Developer to Indie Fund equals the Loan. Games that share only technology with the Game are not considered derivative works."

Early Access sales are still game sales as they include the game in its current state plus all future versions. An investor wouldn't invest in something like this without the expectation of being able to recoup their investment from all sales. The contract doesn't have to make special mention of early access, 'licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of the Game' is catch-all terminology for 'however you sell this thing, we recoup the investment first (which they did, in 2 weeks).

It's possible that this was not clear enough to some people, but what it wasn't, was 'fraudulent'. Indie Fund is one of the most transparent funding groups in existence.

Taking a further look at Indie Fund's Agreement:

From Section 6: "Revenue generated from Game after the Effective Date and before its release (e.g. pre-orders) is subject to Revenue Share (see Section 7) after the game is released and does not count towards Repayment."

[Effective Date refers to the date of the agreement with Indie Fund]

From Section 7: "As additional consideration for Indie Fund’s willingness to make the Loan to Developer, Developer agrees to pay Indie Fund 25% of all Gross Revenue (including revenue generated by exploitation of any work based upon or derived from Game) received by Developer above the Loan amount (“Revenue Share”). The Revenue Share shall apply to the first dollar received by Developer above the Loan amount and all gross revenue received by Developer until the total payment to Indie Fund (Repayment plus Revenue Share) is equal to twice the Loan, or the Term has been reached. Developer shall pay the Revenue Share to Indie Fund monthly, within fifteen (15) days after the end of the month in which Developer received the revenue subject to the Revenue Share."

First, I can interpret those terms as meaning that Early Access is not like a release, only version 1.0 counts as a release, so they shouldn't have gotten a dime until version 1.0. It's just an interpretation of "after the game is released," but then again these are becoming somewhat vague terms in today's market. For proof of that, look at the current Steam Early Access page:

"Is this the same as pre-purchasing a game?

No. Early Access is a full purchase of a playable game. By purchasing, you gain immediate access to download and play the game in its current form and as it evolves. You keep access to the game, even if the game later moves from Early Access into fully released.

When will these games release?

Its up to the developer to determine when they are ready to 'release'. Some developers have a concrete deadline in mind, while others will get a better sense as the development of the game progresses. You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state."

While valve says early access is not a pre-purchase, it also appears to define the early access period as not a "release," making it plausible to interpret the Indie contract the same way, especially since everyone knew DF-9 was going to Early Access.

Finally, I said it would be "borderline fraud" if Indie "profited" off of early access. I think it was heavily implied at the time of the EA launch that our money was going to fund development of version 1.0. That was a reasonable assumption, even in hindsight:

We put every dime we made from Spacebase back into Spacebase, and then we put in some more.

If our money went to fund prior development of Alpha 1, I say that we should have been told that fact and told how much Alpha 1 actually cost, which at that time was not transparent. Not cool in retrospect, but I wouldn't call it anywhere near borderline fraud. But if our money went to fund prior development, and then 25% of the rest of our money went to Indie Fund as profit, that means "every dime" did not go "back into Spacebase." I think that is at the level where one could plausibly argue material misrepresentation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The standard repayment terms are this:

"Repayment. Developer shall pay to Indie Fund one hundred percent (100%) of the gross revenue received by Developer from the licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of the Game (“Gross Revenue”) and fifty percent (50%) of the gross revenue received by Developer from the licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of any work based upon or derived from the Game, until the total amount paid by Developer to Indie Fund equals the Loan. Games that share only technology with the Game are not considered derivative works."

Early Access sales are still game sales as they include the game in its current state plus all future versions. An investor wouldn't invest in something like this without the expectation of being able to recoup their investment from all sales. The contract doesn't have to make special mention of early access, 'licensing, sale, distribution or other exploitation of the Game' is catch-all terminology for 'however you sell this thing, we recoup the investment first (which they did, in 2 weeks).

It's possible that this was not clear enough to some people, but what it wasn't, was 'fraudulent'. Indie Fund is one of the most transparent funding groups in existence.

Taking a further look at Indie Fund's Agreement:

From Section 6: "Revenue generated from Game after the Effective Date and before its release (e.g. pre-orders) is subject to Revenue Share (see Section 7) after the game is released and does not count towards Repayment."

[Effective Date refers to the date of the agreement with Indie Fund]

From Section 7: "As additional consideration for Indie Fund’s willingness to make the Loan to Developer, Developer agrees to pay Indie Fund 25% of all Gross Revenue (including revenue generated by exploitation of any work based upon or derived from Game) received by Developer above the Loan amount (“Revenue Share”). The Revenue Share shall apply to the first dollar received by Developer above the Loan amount and all gross revenue received by Developer until the total payment to Indie Fund (Repayment plus Revenue Share) is equal to twice the Loan, or the Term has been reached. Developer shall pay the Revenue Share to Indie Fund monthly, within fifteen (15) days after the end of the month in which Developer received the revenue subject to the Revenue Share."

First, I can interpret those terms as meaning that Early Access is not like a release, only version 1.0 counts as a release, so they shouldn't have gotten a dime until version 1.0. It's just an interpretation of "after the game is released," but then again these are becoming somewhat vague terms in today's market. For proof of that, look at the current Steam Early Access page:

"Is this the same as pre-purchasing a game?

No. Early Access is a full purchase of a playable game. By purchasing, you gain immediate access to download and play the game in its current form and as it evolves. You keep access to the game, even if the game later moves from Early Access into fully released.

When will these games release?

Its up to the developer to determine when they are ready to 'release'. Some developers have a concrete deadline in mind, while others will get a better sense as the development of the game progresses. You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state."

While valve says early access is not a pre-purchase, it also appears to define the early access period as not a "release," making it plausible to interpret the Indie contract the same way, especially since everyone knew DF-9 was going to Early Access.

Finally, I said it would be "borderline fraud" if Indie "profited" off of early access. I think it was heavily implied at the time of the EA launch that our money was going to fund development of version 1.0. That was a reasonable assumption, even in hindsight:

We put every dime we made from Spacebase back into Spacebase, and then we put in some more.

If our money went to fund prior development of Alpha 1, I say that we should have been told that fact and told how much Alpha 1 actually cost, which at that time was not transparent. Not cool in retrospect, but I wouldn't call it anywhere near borderline fraud. But if our money went to fund prior development, and then 25% of the rest of our money went to Indie Fund as profit, that means "every dime" did not go "back into Spacebase." I think that is at the level where one could plausibly argue material misrepresentation.

Two quick points. The thing about the pre-orders is a good spot. Something that I haven't really talked about yet is that DF-9 was bigger and structured differently to the sorts of things Indie Fund usually fund, so it's possible that the terms of the deal were tweaked to take the early access situation into account. Since they were paying to bring the game to early access, it would make sense for them to recoup from said early access. But you're right, there's a certain amount of fuzziness in the wording there.

One thing I will say is that I deal with a lot of similar types of contracts in my line of work and I've never seen one where the investor doesn't expect to recoup at the earliest possible opportunity. Basically if you're investing in something, you are in a strong negotiating position because without you it doesn't happen, and also it's just sensible as an investor to make sure that one of the first things that happens in what's sometimes referred to as the 'waterfall' (i.e. the flow of income through the various rules in the contract about where the money goes) is that this investment gets recouped. There are variations on this theme, but that's the general idea. (That said, and I reiterate, Indie Fund terms are orders of magnitude more favourable than most)

However, whether it happens after the game goes on sale or during Early Access, repaying investors (and honouring any other obligations) IS part of the project costs. Just like providing medical insurance for employees is part of the project costs, even though their medical insurance isn't necessarily helping Spacebase get made, directly. So I don't think it's misrepresentative to say that the money went back into the project. It always costs more to make a game than the specific cost of putting a developer in front of a computer to build the game. Other costs might be: promotional, office management/admin/space rental, shipping in the case of a physical game, employee benefits such as health insurance, and yes, obligations to financial partners.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's all fuzzy and weasel wording at this point. And that leaves a very ashen taste in my mouth. At the very least DoubleFine are being exceptionally unspecific about how much of the SEA sales -actually- ended up in the IndieFund pool, was it just the prototype cost or was there an ongoing drain on top? If there was an ongoing revenue share, why wasn't this made clear up front?

Here's where I get really salty. I have no issue with Investors taking their cut from a completed game, I have no issue with Investors taking their cut once the development work is done, but I have issue with a Developer claiming "Your money directly funds how much game you get" to the people who are buying into the Early Access model and then rather quietly and not very clearly (although not lying of course, to be technical) handing over a slice of that money to investors as a continued profit slice. That to me utterly stinks.

That's where I move from "Well okay, DoubleFine tried their best" to "DoubleFine abused Steam Early Access and Valve rightfully should ban their asses from pulling such a stunt again".

If you, KestrelPi, fail to see the issue in that, then frankly you won't grasp why people are getting so mad in general. People don't get why development is being cut short, and right now I'm spotting a fairly definitive reason as to why it is, it's the most logical and so far factual answer that fits together. Unfortunately it fits together a lot better than Tim's answers :/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you, KestrelPi, fail to see the issue in that, then frankly you won't grasp why people are getting so mad in general. People don't get why development is being cut short, and right now I'm spotting a fairly definitive reason as to why it is, it's the most logical and so far factual answer that fits together. Unfortunately it fits together a lot better than Tim's answers :/

Don't try to reframe a legitimate disagreement about the facts and circumstances of the issue at hand as an inability to grasp what you're talking about. It's patronising - and so that's another line of argument that I am simply going to ignore.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two quick points. The thing about the pre-orders is a good spot. Something that I haven't really talked about yet is that DF-9 was bigger and structured differently to the sorts of things Indie Fund usually fund, so it's possible that the terms of the deal were tweaked to take the early access situation into account. Since they were paying to bring the game to early access, it would make sense for them to recoup from said early access. But you're right, there's a certain amount of fuzziness in the wording there.

One thing I will say is that I deal with a lot of similar types of contracts in my line of work and I've never seen one where the investor doesn't expect to recoup at the earliest possible opportunity. Basically if you're investing in something, you are in a strong negotiating position because without you it doesn't happen, and also it's just sensible as an investor to make sure that one of the first things that happens in what's sometimes referred to as the 'waterfall' (i.e. the flow of income through the various rules in the contract about where the money goes) is that this investment gets recouped. There are variations on this theme, but that's the general idea. (That said, and I reiterate, Indie Fund terms are orders of magnitude more favourable than most)

However, whether it happens after the game goes on sale or during Early Access, repaying investors (and honouring any other obligations) IS part of the project costs. Just like providing medical insurance for employees is part of the project costs, even though their medical insurance isn't necessarily helping Spacebase get made, directly. So I don't think it's misrepresentative to say that the money went back into the project. It always costs more to make a game than the specific cost of putting a developer in front of a computer to build the game. Other costs might be: promotional, office management/admin/space rental, shipping in the case of a physical game, employee benefits such as health insurance, and yes, obligations to financial partners.

I totally understand where you are coming from, and I agree investors will typically want to be paid immediately from whatever source of income is available. But at the end of the day, an investment is a capital expenditure aimed at obtaining a return - i.e. a calculated risk of capital. I disagree that there was no way this deal could have been structured such that Indie Fund took a reasonable risk of failure for a reasonable chance at obtaining a significant return. I've described it vaguely before: Indie gets a chunk of its costs from Alpha 1, and additional chunks after the game hits predefined feature milestones. This would be difficult to set up and monitor, but so is funding a full game. This way Indie Fund has to bet that early access funds will be sufficient to cover not just Alpha 1, but also enough further development to the point that the game is fun enough to get a real shot at self sufficiency. Selling 20k copies of a Double Fine game, basically what Indie Fund needed to start making a profit here, is not a significant risk. Selling 100k copies of a Double Fine game, apparently what was necessary to fund the vision which enticed fans to buy in the first place, is a significant risk. Allowing Indie to totally recoup its investment around the 50k mark might have been a reasonable value bet.

Indie's deal might be great for developers, but when early access is involved, it makes it a terrible and misleading deal for consumers. Here, Indie Fund essentially bought a prototype. It was cool and showed a lot of promise, but it wasn't worth $25. If it was sold as a final game for $25 and subject to reviews, I think they wouldn't have made 10% of the sales they did. That's because unlike Indie Fund's typical deals, a lot of the value in the product they sold here was the dream of what the game could be in future development. The original Early Access page stated: "Spacebase DF-9 is a simulation game in ongoing development at Double Fine Productions. The in-progress Alpha version is available right now for Windows, Mac, and Linux." (emphasis mine). I'm not saying they "promised" everything on the dev list, but the clear suggestion was that early access was so pricey because it was paying for future development.

To take 25% of those funds away as profit, before the game has proved to be fun for the people who bought it, is wrong. If we assume that the normal Indie Fund Agreement applied, and early access counted as release, then that's exactly what they did. They sold the game at the price they did by advertising perceived value (future development) while simultaneously and surreptitiously undermining that value (by removing over 50% of the early access funds needed to create future development). Think about it: $400k buys 40 man months at Double Fine, roughly 6 people for 7 months, which is what happened to create Alpha 1. The team then went down to 3 people and lasted another year, 36 man months. Double Fine said they've been operating at a loss for a while, let's say early access bought 30 man months: $300k, which is 75% of $400. So it's reasonable to say that early access netted $800k, $500k of which went to Indie ($400k initial investment + $100k profit, 25% return over less than 19 months) and $300k went to future development. Maybe not fraud, but horribly unethical given that none of it was clear to customers because "Indie Fund" is nowhere listed on the Early Access page, nor is the fact that Alpha 1 was being paid for out of Early Access funds, and the cost of Alpha 1 was not even publically available until Indie Fund's celebratory "we made all our money back!" press release. If, as you suggest is possible, they tweaked the deal, then not even the terms were publically available.

At least Double Fine risked their reputation on success and are spending some of their own money to try and salvage what they can for the fans. Indie risked virtually nothing and made around 15% annual investment returns off a failed product. That reminds me of those Bain Capital attack ads against Mitt Romney talking about how a company ended up totally failing but Bain still made millions off it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you, KestrelPi, fail to see the issue in that, then frankly you won't grasp why people are getting so mad in general. People don't get why development is being cut short, and right now I'm spotting a fairly definitive reason as to why it is, it's the most logical and so far factual answer that fits together. Unfortunately it fits together a lot better than Tim's answers :/

Don't try to reframe a legitimate disagreement about the facts and circumstances of the issue at hand as an inability to grasp what you're talking about. It's patronising - and so that's another line of argument that I am simply going to ignore.

You're the one constantly suggesting that it's perfectly fine that investors get their cut regardless of where in the dev cycle a game happens to be. You know, it wasn't that long ago that investors had to do this radical thing called investing and waiting for a game to come out before they even saw a dime on their investment. This whole "Shuffle the risk onto the backs of people who buy into Early Access" must look like a real wheeze to them. All of the profit and none of the risk!

You seem to have a habit of ignoring lines of argument that you find tricky. Low hanging fruit getting sparse? *playful*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I'm just trying to understand how we're having a conversation about lack of transparency about the company which arguably has, for 2 years, been far and away the most transparent mid-size developer there is. One can hardly accuse them of being a company that makes these shady backroom deals to get their games made. We probably know more about the funding of DF's game than any other studio of a comparable size, but we don't know everything.

There's a drawback to this - it invites additional scrutiny. And nobody has really written the book on 'how to basically make everything about your game development business public without confusing or upsetting or appearing to mislead anyone.' It might seem like a simple matter, but we're talking about this, all of this, with the benefit of hindsight, and then trying to project motivations and so forth onto people over a year ago who didn't have that benefit. We know not everything, but enough to play Armchair Producer/Project leader and we get to do it after Double Fine already had to do it for real. And it's in that delta where I am hesitant to make the leap from:

'Yeah it seems like mistakes were made, I'd love to get the whole picture some time and I hope this was at least a learning experience for them' to angry apportionment of blame and calls for reprisals.

That's why I can get disappointed, but not mad. Well, that and the fact that I'm still genuinely looking forward to 1.0, despite everything.

This is gonna be my last word on this for a while, I think. Well, don't hold me to that (I do post a lot, after all) but I think I've wrung everything I can out of this discussion and I would really prefer at this point to switch gears from thinking about what might have been to looking forward to what actually is. At least until some time has gone by and we can survey the actual 'damage', as opposed to speculating about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right now I'm somewhat hoping that my rampant pessimism and jadedness isn't about to prove me right once more. The problem is that surprises are rarely the pleasant kind. As I said elsewhere, I'll hold final judgement until 1.0, but even then I get the sense there's going to be hilarity abounding *gives the linux version the kind of look one gives a nuclear reactor that's going a bit toasty*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I guess I'm just trying to understand how we're having a conversation about lack of transparency about the company which arguably has, for 2 years, been far and away the most transparent mid-size developer there is.

Thank-you for this. Well said. Well said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I guess I'm just trying to understand how we're having a conversation about lack of transparency about the company which arguably has, for 2 years, been far and away the most transparent mid-size developer there is.

The overall community and outside media reaction to the situation at hand proves otherwise, at least on the matter of the Spacebase project.

Admitting that the communication was mishandled but then going to say "we gonna do better next time" is not an appropriate way to apologize to those who dumped money into it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Expecting the continued pre-release sales on Early Access to continue funding this game was unrealistic and poorly done. Consumers do have a memory and this mishandled development will and should permanently affect the reputation of Double Fine and Mr. Schafer.

Furthermore, the expectation for future development set by the dev plan has been left unfulfilled. Considering that the dev plan and expected content where major points driving the sale of the game, I'm disappointed to say the least given this rapid exit by DF.

I think everyone understands a company not wanting to continue spending money on a project that is losing money. However, it's left me feeling like paid for a book which was instead given to me as a series of three short stories and a set of guidelines to write your own stories.

All in all, it is difficult to characterize DF's actions as anything other than abandonment. It's Towns all over again. Nuff said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I guess I'm just trying to understand how we're having a conversation about lack of transparency about the company which arguably has, for 2 years, been far and away the most transparent mid-size developer there is. One can hardly accuse them of being a company that makes these shady backroom deals to get their games made. We probably know more about the funding of DF's game than any other studio of a comparable size, but we don't know everything.

There's a drawback to this - it invites additional scrutiny. And nobody has really written the book on 'how to basically make everything about your game development business public without confusing or upsetting or appearing to mislead anyone.' It might seem like a simple matter, but we're talking about this, all of this, with the benefit of hindsight, and then trying to project motivations and so forth onto people over a year ago who didn't have that benefit. We know not everything, but enough to play Armchair Producer/Project leader and we get to do it after Double Fine already had to do it for real. And it's in that delta where I am hesitant to make the leap from:

'Yeah it seems like mistakes were made, I'd love to get the whole picture some time and I hope this was at least a learning experience for them' to angry apportionment of blame and calls for reprisals.

As I said, I'm more upset at Indie Fund than DF. DF's good intentions shouldn't be in serious doubt, given the very real risk they took with social capital and the fact that they've spent their own money trying to get 1.0 out the door. DF gets all the flak, which is upsetting given that it was Indie Fund which was set up to win spectacularly and exit quietly while DF and the EA buyers got left holding the bag. Maybe Indie deserves some benefit of the doubt with regard to their intentions, but the clear lesson is that in the future it would be very unethical for them to finance another deal for an Alpha 1 product with the investment and profit paid immediately out of early access funds, particularly without full and complete disclosure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Appreciate the apology and explanation. Still bummed, but what can ya do.

Thanks for creating a pretty decent, fun alpha game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
“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.

-Tim

But there doesn't seem to be any time for testing. Essentially. What you have laid out is:

1: Oh crap. Out of money. Wrap everything up. We're done.

2:Release game as "1.0" going from alpha without any beta testing.

3: The customers of the "1.0" version are essentially beta testers. There is no getting around this. you're just calling a rock a boulder.

4: The game probably won't work. At all. Alpha 6 has been horrific in terms of stability. Linux doesn't even work still. It took almost A MONTH before anyone on the team acknowledged there was an issue.

So no. You are going in to beta. But you're being dishonest and calling it 1.0. Only way I will accept a 1.0 release is if this was not an open development project and you had already reserved resources to pay playtesters and bugfinders. But you haven't. You don't even have enough to continue adding onto the project, how can you have the money to pay people hwo know all operating systems to test your game and find where it is breaking? That is a lot of man hours to test on multiple hardware and system settings.

TLDR: Dishonest response is dishonest. Still is going into beta, but calling it 1.0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
“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.

-Tim

But there doesn't seem to be any time for testing. Essentially. What you have laid out is:

1: Oh crap. Out of money. Wrap everything up. We're done.

2:Release game as "1.0" going from alpha without any beta testing.

3: The customers of the "1.0" version are essentially beta testers. There is no getting around this. you're just calling a rock a boulder.

4: The game probably won't work. At all. Alpha 6 has been horrific in terms of stability. Linux doesn't even work still. It took almost A MONTH before anyone on the team acknowledged there was an issue.

So no. You are going in to beta. But you're being dishonest and calling it 1.0. Only way I will accept a 1.0 release is if this was not an open development project and you had already reserved resources to pay playtesters and bugfinders. But you haven't. You don't even have enough to continue adding onto the project, how can you have the money to pay people hwo know all operating systems to test your game and find where it is breaking? That is a lot of man hours to test on multiple hardware and system settings.

TLDR: Dishonest response is dishonest. Still is going into beta, but calling it 1.0

1. They stated they saw this coming and sank all funds back into the game including extra in the hopes that things would pick up after a few releases. Didn't happen. Your version is a gross simplification. They erred when they didn't let us know when the initial problem arose.

2. Beta testing as you have defined it is just playtesting and bug fixing. That has been happening the entire process. Every early access player especially those that post bugs on forums and whatnot is a "beta" tester.

3. Corrected above.

4. They're sinking all their time into bug fixing and adding in the last two features. Best not to say the sky is falling until it is.

And I don't mean to demean playtesters or QA people, but anyone can do QA. There are some people that are more adept at finding bugs, but there isn't anything different about someone paid to test and people playing an alpha or beta that report bugs (paycheck aside). And your indie/mid-tier developers aren't spending money on QA testers. They get their employees, friends, family and do Alpha/Beta builds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I don't mean to demean playtesters or QA people, but anyone can do QA. There are some people that are more adept at finding bugs, but there isn't anything different about someone paid to test and people playing an alpha or beta that report bugs (paycheck aside). And your indie/mid-tier developers aren't spending money on QA testers. They get their employees, friends, family and do Alpha/Beta builds.

That's entirely false. Actual QA testing when done properly is worlds apart from simple bug testing as done by joe random. It's a process that's done tortuously and over and over in a controlled environment and then carefully documented. Consistent attempts to replicate a very specific bug are done on various different rigs and in different environments, QA when done right can be extremely expensive and time consuming. The "public" beta when done right produces a lot of noise, but also a lot of signal which provides useful information to the paid QA staff who can then home in with their unit tests.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[speculation]

I've been thinking a bit about the situation, reading through some older updates, considering things like the subtitle of Alpha 6, looking at old forum/steam posts from JP, and: I'm pretty sure that "1.0 in October" has been pretty firmly on their internal schedule since Alpha 5, or early July at the latest. The number of features (even if buggy in the current release) added in Alpha 6 which pushed that original dev plan from "a slight majority of features implemented" to "an overwhelming majority of features implemented" is actually pretty astounding, and the inside-knowledge that Alpha 6 would be the last big feature set before moving to [internal] Beta/bug-testing & polish lines up with the longer-than-normal wait for Alpha 6 and the extent of the systems implemented therein.

I don't think they're in anything like a situation of a rush-to-1.0-without-bug-testing; I think they're right on schedule, and are giving the game more than enough time for internal bug-testing and polish, same as they'd give any other game. (Which also happens to be what they've said they're doing.) I also don't think it's a "ridiculous jump from Alpha 6 to 1.0" if going from Alpha 6 to 1.0 has been their implemented-plan for 3-6 months. It's pretty clearly not an "Oh, crap. Out of money, wrap everything up," but more of an "Oh, drat, it isn't making enough money for sustained development; how much longer do you need to implement enough features that we'll deliver a complete game containing the overwhelming majority of features you wanted?"

I also happen to prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt re: not communicating this, since I know that, in their position, I might also wait until the last possible moment to see whether sales might pick up with the Alpha 6 release (which contained an overwhelming majority of the originally-considered features for the game)—if sales had picked up, they could have continued development a bit further, but if they'd pre-announced the worst-case plan for the schedule, there's no way sales would have picked up. Better to give the game a chance to over-perform expectations than to dash any hope by announcing you have low expectations.

Just saying "sales aren't going well, and we don't think we'll be able to develop as long as we'd hoped" would be a sure way to ensure sales wouldn't go well, and you won't be able to develop as long as you would have if you hadn't said that. (Duh.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I don't mean to demean playtesters or QA people, but anyone can do QA. There are some people that are more adept at finding bugs, but there isn't anything different about someone paid to test and people playing an alpha or beta that report bugs (paycheck aside). And your indie/mid-tier developers aren't spending money on QA testers. They get their employees, friends, family and do Alpha/Beta builds.

That's entirely false. Actual QA testing when done properly is worlds apart from simple bug testing as done by joe random. It's a process that's done tortuously and over and over in a controlled environment and then carefully documented. Consistent attempts to replicate a very specific bug are done on various different rigs and in different environments, QA when done right can be extremely expensive and time consuming. The "public" beta when done right produces a lot of noise, but also a lot of signal which provides useful information to the paid QA staff who can then home in with their unit tests.

I understand the triple A QA process. We're talking about an indie game here. You're not going to get a full QA shakedown. What you're going to get is a basic QA which is no different than the playtesting I described.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems the biggest problem (besides DF's apparent inefficiency, something as barebones as Alpha 1 costing $400k is problematic) is that Indie Fund isn't really set up with Early Access in mind.

I'm sure as hell not going to argue that Early Access is "just" a beta or otherwise not real sales because that's the rationale that bad EA games use to deflect criticism; I'm firmly of the mindset that EA games should be given just as much (if not more) scrutiny as released games and that games media in general does a very poor job of this. We'd have much fewer issues with games like The War Z or Towns if there were actual reviews out there panning them before they made headlines for their scandals.

However, certain Early Access games, like Spacebase DF-9, rely on continuous development and constant updates to retain the interest of players. If a developer has to pay back its investors immediately after their game has been released on Early Access, that gives them very little money to continue development and nurture a growing player base. Development can end up choking right there.

I don't think it's necessarily Indie Fund's fault, though. I think the problem was with Double Fine's planning. While borrowing $400k to make a complete game that doesn't require much maintenance other than the occasional bugfix or DLC makes fiscal sense, it's clearly not beneficial when a game requires a steady stream of money to continue making money.

Double Fine should have negotiated a more appropriate deal. They can't keep cutely proclaiming themselves indifferent to the business side of their craft, it's affecting their work very negatively and they need to get their shit together. I don't know if that means Schaefer needs to go back to school or if they need to find someone that can actually handle money, but things can't keep going like they have.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ducking back in only for a moment since looking at this closer it's worth noting that Indie Fund was only 1 of multiple investment partners. They put in only 75k of the total 400k investment, and since this is common for co-funded media deals, their repayment was probably pro-rata according to their level of investment - so in that way, the terms were probably different from the standard ones seen on the website. It's also likely that their share of overages was much less than their standard 25%

It's very likely that the other investment partners had similar repayment terms, but I'm not sure who they are. It's quite possible if there was any involvement, for example of 'angel' investors like Dracogen has been in the past, the repayment terms might have been somewhat more lenient.

As for the previous poster, I don't know where he gets the idea that Double Fine are "cutely proclaiming themselves indifferent to the business side of their craft" - if anything they have dedicated themselves more to this side of things in the last to years, as evidenced by the hiring of Justin Bailey to work on the business/money end of things freeing up Tim to concentrate on his projects.

Anyway, I just wanted to add that note about Indie Fund.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a quick question: I know Indie Fund made a package deal with DF over two games, Hack 'n' Slash and Spacebase DF-9. Were the SBDF9 part of the funds $400k or were the two of them $400k put together?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just a quick question: I know Indie Fund made a package deal with DF over two games, Hack 'n' Slash and Spacebase DF-9. Were the SBDF9 part of the funds $400k or were the two of them $400k put together?
See above - Indie Fund put 75k into DF-9, out of 400 with other investors. There were no figures announced for the Hack 'n' Slash funding, but presumably it was funded seperately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I don't mean to demean playtesters or QA people, but anyone can do QA. There are some people that are more adept at finding bugs, but there isn't anything different about someone paid to test and people playing an alpha or beta that report bugs (paycheck aside). And your indie/mid-tier developers aren't spending money on QA testers. They get their employees, friends, family and do Alpha/Beta builds.

That's entirely false. Actual QA testing when done properly is worlds apart from simple bug testing as done by joe random. It's a process that's done tortuously and over and over in a controlled environment and then carefully documented. Consistent attempts to replicate a very specific bug are done on various different rigs and in different environments, QA when done right can be extremely expensive and time consuming. The "public" beta when done right produces a lot of noise, but also a lot of signal which provides useful information to the paid QA staff who can then home in with their unit tests.

I understand the triple A QA process. We're talking about an indie game here. You're not going to get a full QA shakedown. What you're going to get is a basic QA which is no different than the playtesting I described.

There was a scene in the Broken Age documentary where Double Fine purchased some off the shelf computer parts to track down and fix an obscure bug, so their play testing method has been shown to be more than basic, and closer to what Hobbes described.

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