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Tim answers questions on v1.0

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When I criticised DF you thought it was a good post, when I criticise a ranting user you call me DF PR.

Your first post was fantastic. Your response to heyhellowhatsnew was very bad and empty. No offense intended, but that's not inconsistent.

Anyway, I'm sorry if I upset you, but your reframing of the problem into one of consumer responsibility is not one I will accept.

But it absolutely is the consumer's responsibility to understand what they are exchanging their money for, and if the terms of the exchange aren't satisfyingly clear for you, you can choose not to drop the dollars. In the case of SEA (Steam Early Access), SB and DF (so many acronyms), the only promise they made prospective buyers at the time was: Updates. With absolutely nothing set in stone with regard to specific content that would follow or the amount thereof. For less than the price of most six-packs of beer in Australia, SBDF-9 bought Early Access delivered. ET3D, respect. Just to ingratiate myself further, I'm an openly biased Lucas Arts/DF devotee who plays all the classic Adventure games, constantly, and sometimes simultaneously.

But don't let that deter anyone, just try to accept. Steam Early Access has recently been forced to take to saying to the consumer, upfront, that if you're buying an unfinished product, you forfeit your entitlement to a finished product. It may never change, ever. Harsh, yes. Extremely sad, but true. Because recent alpha titles, notably Stomping Lands (whose users really have something to be up in arms about) have been abandoned in straight up awful states, like dumpster babies.

However, blinding biases aside, I was able to 'lose myself' in Space Base - probably as early as Taste Oddity. A gross yet compellingly erect testament to the undeniable fact that this game just delivered to some of the people who bought it. Even some such as myself who, perhaps naively, expected the development to truly follow in the big footsteps of Dwarf Fortress before it.

My question for Tim: When 1.0 launches, will you be playing Spacebase?

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Tim,

Like almost everyone here I'm a fan of Double Fine and want to support you guys.

That said, my frustration with your explanation is the assumption that everyone knew this game was only intended to be funded with profits from Early Access, and that the plan all along was to only go as far as that took you- whether it got you to a finished product or not.

I don't think most people outside of the studio expected that DF9 was intended to be funded solely through profits from Early Access, and that the product was only ever intended to be a full game if those limited funds would let it. Early Access to consumers is meant to mean preorder & beta (or alpha) access to tide you over and involve you in the creative process, not some speculative gamble where the game only gets made if enough people buy in.

Consumers expect EA games may be slow or rough until 1.0, but the expectation is that their dollars aren't determining whether it gets finished AT ALL, nor that 1.0 may get pushed out the door without an actual, fleshed-out game behind it (matters of the competency of any given studio aside).

That Double Fine was operating under different assumptions, assumptions which were not clearly communicated to many of their consumers, is a supreme disappointment.

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When I criticised DF you thought it was a good post, when I criticise a ranting user you call me DF PR.

Your first post was fantastic. Your response to heyhellowhatsnew was very bad and empty. No offense intended, but that's not inconsistent.

Anyway, I'm sorry if I upset you, but your reframing of the problem into one of consumer responsibility is not one I will accept.

But it absolutely is the consumer's responsibility to understand what they are exchanging their money for, and if the terms of the exchange aren't satisfyingly clear for you, you can choose not to drop the dollars. In the case of SEA (Steam Early Access), SB and DF (so many acronyms), the only promise they made prospective buyers at the time was: Updates. With absolutely nothing set in stone with regard to specific content that would follow or the amount thereof. For less than the price of most six-packs of beer in Australia, SBDF-9 bought Early Access delivered. ET3D, respect. Just to ingratiate myself further, I'm an openly biased Lucas Arts/DF devotee who plays all the classic Adventure games, constantly, and sometimes simultaneously.

This is a very libertarian approach to the issue, and not one that even the law necessarily agrees with.

That being said, your point is entirely irrelevant from a business PR perspective. The fact is, claiming technicalities like "Well, consumers, it's your fault for not reading the fine print" is really not a sound strategy. People will be mad about feeling duped by Double Fine and they will be justified in doing so because this screw-up is about communication and trust. Double Fine sold an image of a game and then did not follow through. That is the problem, not what some document technically says.

So you're not wrong, but you're also not relevant.

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When I criticised DF you thought it was a good post, when I criticise a ranting user you call me DF PR.

Your first post was fantastic. Your response to heyhellowhatsnew was very bad and empty. No offense intended, but that's not inconsistent.

Anyway, I'm sorry if I upset you, but your reframing of the problem into one of consumer responsibility is not one I will accept.

But it absolutely is the consumer's responsibility to understand what they are exchanging their money for, and if the terms of the exchange aren't satisfyingly clear for you, you can choose not to drop the dollars. In the case of SEA (Steam Early Access), SB and DF (so many acronyms), the only promise they made prospective buyers at the time was: Updates. With absolutely nothing set in stone with regard to specific content that would follow or the amount thereof. For less than the price of most six-packs of beer in Australia, SBDF-9 bought Early Access delivered. ET3D, respect. Just to ingratiate myself further, I'm an openly biased Lucas Arts/DF devotee who plays all the classic Adventure games, constantly, and sometimes simultaneously.

This is a very libertarian approach to the issue, and not one that even the law necessarily agrees with.

That being said, your point is entirely irrelevant from a business PR perspective. The fact is, claiming technicalities like "Well, consumers, it's your fault for not reading the fine print" is really not a sound strategy. People will be mad about feeling duped by Double Fine and they will be justified in doing so because this screw-up is about communication and trust. Double Fine sold an image of a game and then did not follow through. That is the problem, not what some document technically says.

So you're not wrong, but you're also not relevant.

Where? Where is this image of a game they allegedly sold that didn't get delivered on?

Is it in the devplan? The one that is clearly marked at the top, 'Here is a huge list of all the things we might possibly do at some point'?

Is it in the original early access pitch?

Here's that:

Spacebase DF-9 released on Steam Early Access!

Welcome, intrepid explorers! Spacebase DF-9 has launched into the cosmos of Steam Early Access for everyone to play. We appreciate your support more than words can say, but we’re going to try. We’ll use this website to keep you up-to-date on the game’s continuing development, provide resources for new players and some peeks behind the scenes.

While the site went live just today, we’ve put up several back-dated posts that chronicle the game’s development up to this point, starting in March of 2013. You can see how far we’ve come in that time, and hopefully get an idea of where we’re headed!

We also set up a wiki with the help of the nice folks at Gamepedia where players can compile information about the game. We’d like for this to become a primary resource for new and master players but in the spirit of building a real community, we’d like to let you take the first step. It’s publicly editable and waiting for quality contributors, so if the idea of a pristine new wiki waiting to be filled with informationy goodness makes your mouth water, dive in!

Thank you again for joining us on this odyssey. Who knows where we’ll end up? Space is huge and scary but we’ve got each other! SPACE HUUGS!

[END TRANSMISSION]

Or in the subsequent chatter?

Here's an early blog question posted just after the Alpha 1 release:

Hi Guys. I want to buy this game, but I don't really want to play the alpha (I would prefare to wait for a more stable release). If I buy now will that secure me a copy of the game for life? Or will I need to buy it again when it reaches beta (or full release)? I just want to add, the game looks awesome, and I cant wait to see where it goes! Thanks

If you buy now you will definitely have the game for life, including future alpha and beta updates and whatever comes after beta, whether it’s considered “final” or not! (We’d love to keep working on the game as long as there’s community interest and ongoing sales.)

Where is this amazing undelivered implied promise that I keep hearing about? As far as I can see, their line was, and has always been very clearly: this is the sort of game we're trying to make, here are the sorts of things we'd like to be in it, and we're going to keep on working towards that goal for as long as we have the money to do so.

DF have said sorry they weren't clearer about that - but as far as I can see, they were pretty clear about it.

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Kestrel- why would you bold that bit from the blog?

Are you trying to say that a single blog post after Alpha 1, but not on the main webpage or the Steam page is a definitive statement of intent?

Even putting aside that that isn't a front and center place for a potential customer to look (what if you're buying in later, do you expect the customer should comb through all the prior blog posts before a purchase?), that sentence you've bolded isn't even clear as phrased. In the context of that paragraph it could also mean that they'd love to keep working after having a "finished" build if interest keeps up

I would hardly call that bolded sentence some "smoking gun" of clear intent. Double Fine may well have meant it as some sort of disclaimer, they may well have had this idea of development that was solely contingent on just the money coming in from Early Access, but I wouldn't say that that was made clear, especially based on your quote.

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Kestrel- why would you bold that bit from the blog?

Are you trying to say that a single blog post after Alpha 1, but not on the main webpage or the Steam page is a definitive statement of intent?

Even putting aside that that isn't a front and center place for a potential customer to look (what if you're buying in later, do you expect the customer should comb through all the prior blog posts before a purchase?), that sentence you've bolded isn't even clear as phrased. In the context of that paragraph it could also mean that they'd love to keep working after having a "finished" build if interest keeps up

I would hardly call that bolded sentence some "smoking gun" of clear intent. Double Fine may well have meant it as some sort of disclaimer, they may well have had this idea of development that was solely contingent on just the money coming in from Early Access, but I wouldn't say that that was made clear, especially based on your quote.

I bolded that part because I wanted to be clear that from the beginning when they've talked about the scope of the project, the line has been 'we want to keep working on it as long as we have the funds to', I think you're reading a bit too much into my emphasis.

And no, it wasn't just there. That was just an example. It was in the FAQ on the about page of the game (the answer to the question has changed now there's a firm release date). It was in the dev plan, linked to in the announcement for Alpha 1 when Early Access went on sale, and continued to be updated until it was taken down.

If someone wanted to find out what the intended scope of the games development was, this wasn't information tucked away in small print as was suggested, this was information which was passed out in a number of different ways. Every single time I've found a reference on the internet for future plans for the game, I've only EVER seen it framed as 'here's something we'd like to do if we have the resources,' at the very strongest.

Again, we can question the wisdom of the model that lead to many features not making it, but everything about the way that DF talked about this game back last October suggests to me that they were extremely careful not to over-promise on things they had no way of knowing they'd be able to deliver without strong sales.

If this were a discussion about how to avoid similar mistakes, rather than how people have been supposedly 'cheated', then I think it would be a much more constructive discussion.

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Are you trying to say that a single blog post after Alpha 1, but not on the main webpage or the Steam page is a definitive statement of intent?

That did show up on the front page of the Spacebase DF-9 website didn't it? It also got pushed out to Twitter IIRC.

I don't think that makes up for a more direct statement about it, but it does sort of highlight that it wasn't being hidden.

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I want to make it clear, I'm not arguing that anyone was cheated, but I do feel that the studio's expectation for the development of DF9 was not well communicated, and that this unintentionally did have real consequences in terms of consumer expectation being out of whack with the internal plan for this game.

I'm arguing that intent wasn't clearly communicated and that Early Access was being used in an unusual manner here.

I by no means am familiar with everything on Early Access, but every other project I've followed through that model has had a plan to fund itself and reach a "finished" state whether or not Early Access delivered a lot of sales. The Early Access sales in those cases certainly helped the developer with expenses, but they weren't expected to be the only way to bring the product to market. I think particularly with an established studio, which has a history of only releasing completed products, and which is assumed to either have other investment or their own funds available to assist with a project they choose to undertake- this was a surprising turn of events.

Anyways, I don't have anything more substantive to bring to this conversation. I'm not trying to twist your arm to agree, or to demand some remedy. I'm just sharing why I, personally, was frustrated and disappointed.

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And believe me, guys. I've really looked. I've looked hard for this unrealistic promise of a game that people were cheated out of (or, if you prefer, miscommunicated). The closest I can find, the very closest I can find to anything like that is in one interview, which if you read it a certain (uncharitable, dishonest) way maybe sounds like JP is saying that they'll keep going until all the things on the list are done.

RPS: Is that where Steam Early Access enters the picture for you? I mean, I’ve spoken with devs and critics who think the big downfall of these early access programs will come when games launch and no one cares enough to play them anymore. The thinking is that they’ll have already gotten their fill during alpha or beta. But if the simulation grows enough…

LeBreton: That’s why alpha funding makes sense for us. If you get that initial fanbase, then you can keep developing it. What we’ve seen is that, if you do have that critical mass of gameplay and simulation interest, it’s not a dwindling amount of interest [over time]. It’s an increasing amount of interest, because your game becomes capable of more – telling more interesting stories. It’s attracting new people.

[...]

RPS: If all the stars align and you get everything the way you want it, how long are you hoping to work on new stuff for Spacebase?

LeBreton: [laughs] There’s no specific time in mind because estimating how long it would take to make a game is one of the hardest things to do in the universe, apparently. I think it’s more just, like, you’ll see on our website that we’ll have the full dev plans. And we’re probably gonna add stuff to that and also take some stuff away from that. That’s the most expanded version of the game, so when all of that is in, we could conceivably call it “done.” There’d be no more we could possibly add to the game.

But until then, it’s like we’re just alpha one, alpha two, alpha three – however long we can keep going, based on how much people like it.

So, a few things to note on that. This interview was conducted before the full dev plans were put up, and posted once the announcement was made, and by that point the dev plans were up (complete with warning that nothing in it is guaranteed)

In this interview the question is 'if you get everything the way you want it' how long will the development go. And about the dev plan, he says:

"And we’re probably gonna add stuff to that and also take some stuff away from that. That’s the most expanded version of the game, so when all of that is in, we could conceivably call it “done.” There’d be no more we could possibly add to the game."

It seems clear to me that in the context of the question, he's saying that if they had all the resources possible, then after doing everything on the dev plan, there's nothing else they can add to the game, so it would be 'done' in the sense of they can't think of anything else to add to it.

What he definitely didn't mean was "we'll only be justified in wrapping up development of the game when every single item on the list is done." This was an 'if you get everything you want,' question. Not a 'tell us what 1.0 looks like' question.

And that's the closest I can find anywhere to anything that might even vaguely resemble over-selling. A measured response to an interviewer question about what would happen if the early access really took off. And even in THAT response he mentions they'll probably take stuff off the list.

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Yes. "Just keep giving us money in $25-dollar increments and we might keep making things! Maybe!" is not a normal Early Access approach. "How much of the plan we accomplish depends on how much you buy before we actually do anything! You might end up buying basically nothing for $25!" is not a development principle I personally was aware of.

As for the random blog quote:

If you buy now you will definitely have the game for life, including future alpha and beta updates and whatever comes after beta, whether it’s considered “final” or not! (We’d love to keep working on the game as long as there’s community interest and ongoing sales.)

I remember seeing this, and as said I thought this meant the game might go on being developed post-release! Not that all of Early Access was essentially a running test of interest, the mere existence of the product in a sense close to the original vision entirely contingent upon how many people bought in before there was much to buy (especially at $25).

Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

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Yes. "Just keep giving us money in $25-dollar increments and we might keep making things! Maybe!" is not a normal Early Access approach. "How much of the plan we accomplish depends on how much you buy before we actually do anything! You might end up buying basically nothing for $25!" is not a development principle I personally was aware of.

As for the random blog quote:

If you buy now you will definitely have the game for life, including future alpha and beta updates and whatever comes after beta, whether it’s considered “final” or not! (We’d love to keep working on the game as long as there’s community interest and ongoing sales.)

I remember seeing this, and as said I thought this meant the game might go on being developed post-release! Not that all of Early Access was essentially a running test of interest, the product contingent upon how many people bought in before there much to buy (especially at $25).

Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Sure, they did want to carry on developing it. I mean, alpha funded games often work that way. They go through an alpha phase, then they decide the game is ready for release, have a release but keep on working on it. Minecraft is probably the most successful and famous example of such a thing happening, and Early Access is basically a formalisation of that kind of model (though obviously it's a bit more flexible than that. In the case of Hack 'n' Slash, for example, it was used to test and finish the final act of a story/puzzle based game only)

It seems clear from the early talk about this game is that their aspiration was to build a community that would support continued development in this way. Not on the scale of Minecraft (which went way beyond sustainable and into silly money territory) but on the scale of a game they could keep a team on for at least a while after release.

That didn't work out, and it's entirely possible that they misjudged the audience, or the marketing, or something which led to it not working out. It may be that they focused on the wrong things in development that led to it not working out (though most people seemed pretty happy with the direction so far, I thought)

Sure. I can see how reading that might make you excited for a game that could get years of development. But it's also a pretty small comment which they qualify one sentence later, and it exists alongside many, many comments I've found and sourced stating: we don't know how long we'll get to make this game, but we'll keep going as long as we can.

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Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Why does that become "normal" or more valid than any other interpretation? Given that that post also questions whether the game would have a "final" version, it seems a little like a counter-intuitive interpretation to me.

Edit: It does totally suggest that there would be a longer development timeframe though.

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Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Why does that become "normal" or more valid than any other interpretation? Given that that post also questions whether the game would have a "final" version, it seems a little like a counter-intuitive interpretation to me.

Edit: It does totally suggest that there would be a longer development timeframe though.

Because as TotalBiscuit said in his video, and anyone who buys games in this modern market has seen, a lot of devs are using the content update models. Looks at Terraria, I mean how long has it been out? It has got what, 3 updates that were pretty much expansions adding huge amounts of content for free. It isn't the only game that kept up active development post-launch. I mean it is a good tactic. You can drive more sales, more community interest, and therefore make more money. I believe that they thought they were going to get to work on the game for a long time, up until the long radio silence and then they knew that it was over. If the goals of the game as a 'Game Development Experiment' was made explicitly clear in the very beginning then things would be different. No where did it state, in explicit - not implied terms - that the game would only be in development if it funded it's own development. That's like turning the game into an indefinite Kickstarter.

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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.

From Steam's description of Early Access. It meets every expectation I have of an Early Access title. Much like the rest of game dev, it's a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. There wasn't enough support to keep the game going. No promises were made and Steam clearly outlines what Early Access is.

No one is saying that mistakes weren't made and they could have communicated better that while they were hoping funding would pick up it was looking like the project was coming to a close. At the same time that's a gamble. It could deter people from purchasing the game and then it ends at Alpha 3 instead of 6. Flip side it could spur people on to share about the game to try and save it. It's a tough position to be in.

A little civility is in order. Having your game come to an end after pouring your heart and soul into it is rough. I've been there too many times. It's ok to be upset and frustrated. It isn't ok to take it out on the team or to be belligerent with your questions. To accuse them and DF of not putting their fans first is a little disingenuous and ignores the facts. Look at the whole catalog of games, their kickstarters/fortnight bundles, and various ways they give back to fans at cons/events. When I look at that I don't see a company that sees us all as dollar signs.

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Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Why does that become "normal" or more valid than any other interpretation? Given that that post also questions whether the game would have a "final" version, it seems a little like a counter-intuitive interpretation to me.

Edit: It does totally suggest that there would be a longer development timeframe though.

Because as TotalBiscuit said in his video, and anyone who buys games in this modern market has seen, a lot of devs are using the content update models. Looks at Terraria, I mean how long has it been out? It has got what, 3 updates that were pretty much expansions adding huge amounts of content for free. It isn't the only game that kept up active development post-launch. I mean it is a good tactic. You can drive more sales, more community interest, and therefore make more money. I believe that they thought they were going to get to work on the game for a long time, up until the long radio silence and then they knew that it was over. If the goals of the game as a 'Game Development Experiment' was made explicitly clear in the very beginning then things would be different. No where did it state, in explicit - not implied terms - that the game would only be in development if it funded it's own development. That's like turning the game into an indefinite Kickstarter.

Terraria is an excellent example - it managed to get to where it is thanks to recieving a huge amount of excellent word of mouth that got people interested in a '2D Minecraft-but-not-quite.' And subsequent publisher support. If they hadn't recieved that kind of feedback then they wouldn't have sold enough copies to sustain 3 huge updates plus everything else they've added to the game. It is an excellent example of a game that has found success using this model, and if it hadn't been a success, then we wouldn't be talking about it now.

Not every game succeeds at this approach. It's inherently high risk and if there's one thing that I do agree Double Fine could have been clearer about it is to emphasise the risks involved with this approach. They were clear enough to state that they don't know how much dev time they'll get and can't make any promises, but they could, I suppose have gone one step further and said: 'and alpha funding is always a high-risk approach which relies on the building of a strong active community to ensure continued development, so how far this game goes is dependent on how much the concept catches on.'

I think this was very, vey strongly implied, in everything they put out about DF9 (after all, when they said 'we'll keep developing as long as there is interest and money' where were people thinking that this interest and money would be generated from if not early access itself?), but it could have been clearer.

I don't think there was dishonesty involved, though. In the last few days I've done a lot of looking at what was said about the game when it first went into early access, and it all tallies with what they're saying now. It's just that what we're seeing now is on the more modest end of their ambitions for the game, and of course everyone wanted the big flashy one with all the bells and whistles. Of course they did.

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If you agree that they "could have communicated better" (about risks and the nature of their approach to the project's funding) then I don't think you disagree with any of the naysayers.

As often seems to be the case, KestrelPi, you simply disagree on matters of tone. You choose to assume good intentions and innocent mistakes. That is fine and perhaps accurate. Others choose the word "incompetence". I happen to be one of those. Still others choose to call it "dishonest".

It's really just about your assumptions. I'm not sure any of it really matters, as we all agree that Double Fine could have done a better job (or as some would put it, that they did a bad job).

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Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Why does that become "normal" or more valid than any other interpretation? Given that that post also questions whether the game would have a "final" version, it seems a little like a counter-intuitive interpretation to me.

Edit: It does totally suggest that there would be a longer development timeframe though.

Because as TotalBiscuit said in his video, and anyone who buys games in this modern market has seen, a lot of devs are using the content update models. Looks at Terraria, I mean how long has it been out? It has got what, 3 updates that were pretty much expansions adding huge amounts of content for free. It isn't the only game that kept up active development post-launch. I mean it is a good tactic. You can drive more sales, more community interest, and therefore make more money. I believe that they thought they were going to get to work on the game for a long time, up until the long radio silence and then they knew that it was over. If the goals of the game as a 'Game Development Experiment' was made explicitly clear in the very beginning then things would be different. No where did it state, in explicit - not implied terms - that the game would only be in development if it funded it's own development. That's like turning the game into an indefinite Kickstarter.

Terraria is an excellent example - it managed to get to where it is thanks to recieving a huge amount of excellent word of mouth that got people interested in a '2D Minecraft-but-not-quite.' And subsequent publisher support. If they hadn't recieved that kind of feedback then they wouldn't have sold enough copies to sustain 3 huge updates plus everything else they've added to the game. It is an excellent example of a game that has found success using this model, and if it hadn't been a success, then we wouldn't be talking about it now.

Not every game succeeds at this approach. It's inherently high risk and if there's one thing that I do agree Double Fine could have been clearer about it is to emphasise the risks involved with this approach. They were clear enough to state that they don't know how much dev time they'll get and can't make any promises, but they could, I suppose have gone one step further and said: 'and alpha funding is always a high-risk approach which relies on the building of a strong active community to ensure continued development, so how far this game goes is dependent on how much the concept catches on.'

I think this was very, vey strongly implied, in everything they put out about DF9 (after all, when they said 'we'll keep developing as long as there is interest and money' where were people thinking that this interest and money would be generated from if not early access itself?), but it could have been clearer.

I don't think there was dishonesty involved, though. In the last few days I've done a lot of looking at what was said about the game when it first went into early access, and it all tallies with what they're saying now. It's just that what we're seeing now is on the more modest end of their ambitions for the game, and of course everyone wanted the big flashy one with all the bells and whistles. Of course they did.

The problem is PR talk honestly. Colloquially we talk about early access games and things pop into our minds. Good examples are prison architect and minecraft and the bad like Towns and now this. Early Access to you average gamers isn't a funding model, it's a way to help development and throw the dev a bone to maybe speed things along. It isn't like that, and that is the disconnect between reality and the idealization of the model. What DF was trying to do here is unheard of really. As Blinky said in his blog it is ridiculous to think that this game could fund $40,000 a month to just pay the devs, if the $10,000 per dev number is correct and there is no way it could have sustained that for any amount of time at the state it was in. If they had updated weekly with new content and systems then things would have been different, but monthly updates led to 12 - 14 months with only 6 updates that compared to many game were fairly light. I mean look how far Rimworld has come. It already has a thriving modding scene and the game isn't even close to completion.

I think we all agree, but I think we have differing viewpoints that reach the same conclusion.

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If you agree that they "could have communicated better" (about risks and the nature of their approach to the project's funding) then I don't think you disagree with any of the naysayers.

As often seems to be the case, KestrelPi, you simply disagree on matters of tone. You choose to assume good intentions and innocent mistakes. That is fine and perhaps accurate. Others choose the word "incompetence". I happen to be one of those. Still others choose to call it "dishonest".

It's really just about your assumptions. I'm not sure any of it really matters, as we all agree that Double Fine could have done a better job (or as some would put it, that they did a bad job).

No, this isn't a tone argument. Dishonesty is a thing, not just a mood that you can apply to a remark. You can identify it, and it has characteristics. Same with incompetence. It's not the same thing as a tone argument which is more like 'I'm sorry you don't like the result but please be nicer about it'. I sort of agree with that, because I generally like civil discussion. But I don't really make it my business to police people's tone. If they want to be abrasive, then they can feel free - but I'm still going to feel free to point out all the gaps in what they are saying.

I agree they could have communicated better on one or two very specific points, which I've carefully outlined. I do not agree that they were dishonest in the way they talked about the game, I do not agree they were necessarily incompetent in its development, although we don't have the whole story and there are areas where, in hindsight I'm sure they could have done better. I have specifically identified the parts of what people are saying that I agree with, and where I don't agree. How is that just a disagreement on matters of tone?

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Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Why does that become "normal" or more valid than any other interpretation? Given that that post also questions whether the game would have a "final" version, it seems a little like a counter-intuitive interpretation to me.

Edit: It does totally suggest that there would be a longer development timeframe though.

Because as TotalBiscuit said in his video, and anyone who buys games in this modern market has seen, a lot of devs are using the content update models. Looks at Terraria, I mean how long has it been out? It has got what, 3 updates that were pretty much expansions adding huge amounts of content for free. It isn't the only game that kept up active development post-launch. I mean it is a good tactic. You can drive more sales, more community interest, and therefore make more money. I believe that they thought they were going to get to work on the game for a long time, up until the long radio silence and then they knew that it was over. If the goals of the game as a 'Game Development Experiment' was made explicitly clear in the very beginning then things would be different. No where did it state, in explicit - not implied terms - that the game would only be in development if it funded it's own development. That's like turning the game into an indefinite Kickstarter.

Terraria is an excellent example - it managed to get to where it is thanks to recieving a huge amount of excellent word of mouth that got people interested in a '2D Minecraft-but-not-quite.' And subsequent publisher support. If they hadn't recieved that kind of feedback then they wouldn't have sold enough copies to sustain 3 huge updates plus everything else they've added to the game. It is an excellent example of a game that has found success using this model, and if it hadn't been a success, then we wouldn't be talking about it now.

Not every game succeeds at this approach. It's inherently high risk and if there's one thing that I do agree Double Fine could have been clearer about it is to emphasise the risks involved with this approach. They were clear enough to state that they don't know how much dev time they'll get and can't make any promises, but they could, I suppose have gone one step further and said: 'and alpha funding is always a high-risk approach which relies on the building of a strong active community to ensure continued development, so how far this game goes is dependent on how much the concept catches on.'

I think this was very, vey strongly implied, in everything they put out about DF9 (after all, when they said 'we'll keep developing as long as there is interest and money' where were people thinking that this interest and money would be generated from if not early access itself?), but it could have been clearer.

I don't think there was dishonesty involved, though. In the last few days I've done a lot of looking at what was said about the game when it first went into early access, and it all tallies with what they're saying now. It's just that what we're seeing now is on the more modest end of their ambitions for the game, and of course everyone wanted the big flashy one with all the bells and whistles. Of course they did.

The problem is PR talk honestly. Colloquially we talk about early access games and things pop into our minds. Good examples are prison architect and minecraft and the bad like Towns and now this. Early Access to you average gamers isn't a funding model, it's a way to help development and throw the dev a bone to maybe speed things along. It isn't like that, and that is the disconnect between reality and the idealization of the model. What DF was trying to do here is unheard of really. As Blinky said in his blog it is ridiculous to think that this game could fund $40,000 a month to just pay the devs, if the $10,000 per dev number is correct and there is no way it could have sustained that for any amount of time at the state it was in. If they had updated weekly with new content and systems then things would have been different, but monthly updates led to 12 - 14 months with only 6 updates that compared to many game were fairly light. I mean look how far Rimworld has come. It already has a thriving modding scene and the game isn't even close to completion.

I think we all agree, but I think we have differing viewpoints that reach the same conclusion.

I don't see how that was all that unrealistic.

N.B these are suuuuper ballpark figures, but I think they're instructive.

Double fine were probably pessimistically making $10 off every sale of DF9 once you take off taxes, Steam fees, etc. I actually think it might be closer to $15, but I'm going to say $10, to incorporate sales and such, too.

In order to generate $40k of revenue, they would have had to sell 4000 copies a month, although what would have been more likely is that sales started off stronger and then tapered off a bit for an average of 4000 copies a month.

4000 copies a month isn't insane to hope for. Steam has 75 million active users. There are TEN THOUSAND people playing Terraria at this -very moment-. There's plenty of room within those kinds of numbers for a game like Spacebase to hope to sell 4k a month.

To use the most obviously extreme example. There was a time when Minecraft was making hundreds of thousands of dollars every DAY. If Spacebase had found a niche that was far less than one percent as successful as that, it could have made its numbers.

$40k a month isn't a dream figure. It was just one they didn't manage to sustain for more than a year.

(incidentally I agree that what would have helped is more frequent updates, but I don't feel the updates we got were insubstantial - every one of them made me more excited, and this is where we get into real guesswork territory as to what was really achievable with the team they had)

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40k a month is a dream figure for price being asked and the state the game was in when it was initially being sold. It's clearly come quite far, but the comparison you're making- Terraria- isn't comparable on either of those points.

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Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Why does that become "normal" or more valid than any other interpretation? Given that that post also questions whether the game would have a "final" version, it seems a little like a counter-intuitive interpretation to me.

Edit: It does totally suggest that there would be a longer development timeframe though.

Because as TotalBiscuit said in his video, and anyone who buys games in this modern market has seen, a lot of devs are using the content update models. Looks at Terraria, I mean how long has it been out? It has got what, 3 updates that were pretty much expansions adding huge amounts of content for free. It isn't the only game that kept up active development post-launch. I mean it is a good tactic. You can drive more sales, more community interest, and therefore make more money. I believe that they thought they were going to get to work on the game for a long time, up until the long radio silence and then they knew that it was over. If the goals of the game as a 'Game Development Experiment' was made explicitly clear in the very beginning then things would be different. No where did it state, in explicit - not implied terms - that the game would only be in development if it funded it's own development. That's like turning the game into an indefinite Kickstarter.

Terraria is an excellent example - it managed to get to where it is thanks to recieving a huge amount of excellent word of mouth that got people interested in a '2D Minecraft-but-not-quite.' And subsequent publisher support. If they hadn't recieved that kind of feedback then they wouldn't have sold enough copies to sustain 3 huge updates plus everything else they've added to the game. It is an excellent example of a game that has found success using this model, and if it hadn't been a success, then we wouldn't be talking about it now.

Not every game succeeds at this approach. It's inherently high risk and if there's one thing that I do agree Double Fine could have been clearer about it is to emphasise the risks involved with this approach. They were clear enough to state that they don't know how much dev time they'll get and can't make any promises, but they could, I suppose have gone one step further and said: 'and alpha funding is always a high-risk approach which relies on the building of a strong active community to ensure continued development, so how far this game goes is dependent on how much the concept catches on.'

I think this was very, vey strongly implied, in everything they put out about DF9 (after all, when they said 'we'll keep developing as long as there is interest and money' where were people thinking that this interest and money would be generated from if not early access itself?), but it could have been clearer.

I don't think there was dishonesty involved, though. In the last few days I've done a lot of looking at what was said about the game when it first went into early access, and it all tallies with what they're saying now. It's just that what we're seeing now is on the more modest end of their ambitions for the game, and of course everyone wanted the big flashy one with all the bells and whistles. Of course they did.

The problem is PR talk honestly. Colloquially we talk about early access games and things pop into our minds. Good examples are prison architect and minecraft and the bad like Towns and now this. Early Access to you average gamers isn't a funding model, it's a way to help development and throw the dev a bone to maybe speed things along. It isn't like that, and that is the disconnect between reality and the idealization of the model. What DF was trying to do here is unheard of really. As Blinky said in his blog it is ridiculous to think that this game could fund $40,000 a month to just pay the devs, if the $10,000 per dev number is correct and there is no way it could have sustained that for any amount of time at the state it was in. If they had updated weekly with new content and systems then things would have been different, but monthly updates led to 12 - 14 months with only 6 updates that compared to many game were fairly light. I mean look how far Rimworld has come. It already has a thriving modding scene and the game isn't even close to completion.

I think we all agree, but I think we have differing viewpoints that reach the same conclusion.

I don't see how that was all that unrealistic.

N.B these are suuuuper ballpark figures, but I think they're instructive.

Double fine were probably pessimistically making $10 off every sale of DF9 once you take off taxes, Steam fees, etc. I actually think it might be closer to $15, but I'm going to say $10, to incorporate sales and such, too.

In order to generate $40k of revenue, they would have had to sell 4000 copies a month, although what would have been more likely is that sales started off stronger and then tapered off a bit for an average of 4000 copies a month.

4000 copies a month isn't insane to hope for. Steam has 75 million active users. There are TEN THOUSAND people playing Terraria at this -very moment-. There's plenty of room within those kinds of numbers for a game like Spacebase to hope to sell 4k a month.

To use the most obviously extreme example. There was a time when Minecraft was making hundreds of thousands of dollars every DAY. If Spacebase had found a niche that was far less than one percent as successful as that, it could have made its numbers.

$40k a month isn't a dream figure. It was just one they didn't manage to sustain for more than a year.

Four thousand copies a month is a lot to ask for a game that can barely sustain an hour or so worth of play at a time. I mean I agree that it may not be completely unrealistic, but even then 40K would just be paying the devs, but then you have to add in all of the business over head you're probably adding another 20k a month - and granted this was all probably held up by the other projects the devs are working on. I just think there could have been better management of the project and then better communication. We know DF's history of poor money management so it isn't unreasonable to suspect those were there.

Do I think they were attempting to mislead people? No, but I think they didn't have a real plan when setting out to begin with. People read and assumed it was like every other early access game when it was really more like they had this idea and wanted to see how far they could run with it. Again, as you've said, we don't really know behind the scenes so it hard to tell and at this point we are just projecting what our perception of it is on the project.

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40k a month is a dream figure for price being asked and the state the game was in when it was initially being sold. It's clearly come quite far, but the comparison you're making- Terraria- isn't comparable on either of those points.

I mentioned Terraria once, as a reference point for a particularly popular 2D construction game achieving popularity. Yes, they are different for various reasons.

I think the problem actually is that while the game did improve, significantly, with every release, the buzz died down. And that's gonna kill an alpha funded game.

Every time there was a new release I made noise about it on Twitter and stuff, because I could see they'd added loads. Some of my friends even took notice. But it didn't catch. There was no press about the game beyond Alpha 1, so nobody really ever found out how far the game had come until it was too late.

We can speculate why that is, but honestly, we don't know. It could be a number of things. It could be that it wasn't marketed right. It could just be intangible stuff like it was just the wrong game at the wrong time (yes, it's not a cop out to say sometimes a game is a success because it just happens to catch at the right moment.). It could be that they should have focused on developing other parts of the sim, or releasing smaller, more frequent updates. Or less frequent, bigger updates, maybe that would have strangely been more 'newsworthy'. And yeah, it could have been the price point. Maybe that was all wrong.

Most likely it is a combination of many of these things, and we have every right to be disappointed, but let's not leap from there to wild assumptions.

I'm still looking forward to 1.0, for what it's worth.

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Indeed, I think "we might keep working on the game post-release!" is the normal interpretation of that quote. It actually plays into the entire hype machine -- the idea that you're buying into something big (that never came).

Why does that become "normal" or more valid than any other interpretation? Given that that post also questions whether the game would have a "final" version, it seems a little like a counter-intuitive interpretation to me.

Edit: It does totally suggest that there would be a longer development timeframe though.

Because as TotalBiscuit said in his video, and anyone who buys games in this modern market has seen, a lot of devs are using the content update models. Looks at Terraria, I mean how long has it been out? It has got what, 3 updates that were pretty much expansions adding huge amounts of content for free. It isn't the only game that kept up active development post-launch. I mean it is a good tactic. You can drive more sales, more community interest, and therefore make more money. I believe that they thought they were going to get to work on the game for a long time, up until the long radio silence and then they knew that it was over. If the goals of the game as a 'Game Development Experiment' was made explicitly clear in the very beginning then things would be different. No where did it state, in explicit - not implied terms - that the game would only be in development if it funded it's own development. That's like turning the game into an indefinite Kickstarter.

Terraria is an excellent example - it managed to get to where it is thanks to recieving a huge amount of excellent word of mouth that got people interested in a '2D Minecraft-but-not-quite.' And subsequent publisher support. If they hadn't recieved that kind of feedback then they wouldn't have sold enough copies to sustain 3 huge updates plus everything else they've added to the game. It is an excellent example of a game that has found success using this model, and if it hadn't been a success, then we wouldn't be talking about it now.

Not every game succeeds at this approach. It's inherently high risk and if there's one thing that I do agree Double Fine could have been clearer about it is to emphasise the risks involved with this approach. They were clear enough to state that they don't know how much dev time they'll get and can't make any promises, but they could, I suppose have gone one step further and said: 'and alpha funding is always a high-risk approach which relies on the building of a strong active community to ensure continued development, so how far this game goes is dependent on how much the concept catches on.'

I think this was very, vey strongly implied, in everything they put out about DF9 (after all, when they said 'we'll keep developing as long as there is interest and money' where were people thinking that this interest and money would be generated from if not early access itself?), but it could have been clearer.

I don't think there was dishonesty involved, though. In the last few days I've done a lot of looking at what was said about the game when it first went into early access, and it all tallies with what they're saying now. It's just that what we're seeing now is on the more modest end of their ambitions for the game, and of course everyone wanted the big flashy one with all the bells and whistles. Of course they did.

The problem is PR talk honestly. Colloquially we talk about early access games and things pop into our minds. Good examples are prison architect and minecraft and the bad like Towns and now this. Early Access to you average gamers isn't a funding model, it's a way to help development and throw the dev a bone to maybe speed things along. It isn't like that, and that is the disconnect between reality and the idealization of the model. What DF was trying to do here is unheard of really. As Blinky said in his blog it is ridiculous to think that this game could fund $40,000 a month to just pay the devs, if the $10,000 per dev number is correct and there is no way it could have sustained that for any amount of time at the state it was in. If they had updated weekly with new content and systems then things would have been different, but monthly updates led to 12 - 14 months with only 6 updates that compared to many game were fairly light. I mean look how far Rimworld has come. It already has a thriving modding scene and the game isn't even close to completion.

I think we all agree, but I think we have differing viewpoints that reach the same conclusion.

I don't see how that was all that unrealistic.

N.B these are suuuuper ballpark figures, but I think they're instructive.

Double fine were probably pessimistically making $10 off every sale of DF9 once you take off taxes, Steam fees, etc. I actually think it might be closer to $15, but I'm going to say $10, to incorporate sales and such, too.

In order to generate $40k of revenue, they would have had to sell 4000 copies a month, although what would have been more likely is that sales started off stronger and then tapered off a bit for an average of 4000 copies a month.

4000 copies a month isn't insane to hope for. Steam has 75 million active users. There are TEN THOUSAND people playing Terraria at this -very moment-. There's plenty of room within those kinds of numbers for a game like Spacebase to hope to sell 4k a month.

To use the most obviously extreme example. There was a time when Minecraft was making hundreds of thousands of dollars every DAY. If Spacebase had found a niche that was far less than one percent as successful as that, it could have made its numbers.

$40k a month isn't a dream figure. It was just one they didn't manage to sustain for more than a year.

Four thousand copies a month is a lot to ask for a game that can barely sustain an hour or so worth of play at a time. I mean I agree that it may not be completely unrealistic, but even then 40K would just be paying the devs, but then you have to add in all of the business over head you're probably adding another 20k a month - and granted this was all probably held up by the other projects the devs are working on. I just think there could have been better management of the project and then better communication. We know DF's history of poor money management so it isn't unreasonable to suspect those were there. .

No, the overhead was included in the 10k figure. And actually we DON'T know the history of DF's poor money management, this is an easy narrative that has been created which doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. I wrote about that here, yesterday: http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/14979/

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To be fair most of the claims do stand up to scrutiny if you review the projects. Broken Age is the token example. Games with larger scopes with similar amounts funded (D:OS, cough cough) completed the entire game, not having to break it up to fund a second half with first half sales. I mean I played psychonauts and Grim Fandango, but unlike a lot of people I am not wrapped up in the Schafer cult of personality and the nostalgia - DF essentially rides on Schafers history of making creative games not his savvy business moves.

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If you agree that they "could have communicated better" (about risks and the nature of their approach to the project's funding) then I don't think you disagree with any of the naysayers.

As often seems to be the case, KestrelPi, you simply disagree on matters of tone. You choose to assume good intentions and innocent mistakes. That is fine and perhaps accurate. Others choose the word "incompetence". I happen to be one of those. Still others choose to call it "dishonest".

It's really just about your assumptions. I'm not sure any of it really matters, as we all agree that Double Fine could have done a better job (or as some would put it, that they did a bad job).

No, this isn't a tone argument. Dishonesty is a thing, not just a mood that you can apply to a remark. You can identify it, and it has characteristics. Same with incompetence. It's not the same thing as a tone argument which is more like 'I'm sorry you don't like the result but please be nicer about it'. I sort of agree with that, because I generally like civil discussion. But I don't really make it my business to police people's tone. If they want to be abrasive, then they can feel free - but I'm still going to feel free to point out all the gaps in what they are saying.

I agree they could have communicated better on one or two very specific points, which I've carefully outlined. I do not agree that they were dishonest in the way they talked about the game, I do not agree they were necessarily incompetent in its development, although we don't have the whole story and there are areas where, in hindsight I'm sure they could have done better. I have specifically identified the parts of what people are saying that I agree with, and where I don't agree. How is that just a disagreement on matters of tone?

Here's what I hope is a useful example. Let's take your quote from the Alpha 1 blog:

If you buy now you will definitely have the game for life, including future alpha and beta updates and whatever comes after beta, whether it’s considered “final” or not! (We’d love to keep working on the game as long as there’s community interest and ongoing sales.)

Now, look at what's being said. There will be alpha updates. There will be beta updates. There is the hope that they keep adding to the game after release.

Let's look at the reality. There were 0 beta updates. The post-release content will be provided by players, not Double Fine.

a) Your argument is that it was all up in the air and they didn't know, and that they were trying to convey this uncertainty. You say that the reality is actually something they are warning against with this one sentence. Your assumptions give them the benefit of the doubt and places great meaning in a few words. You are sympathetic. You say that the parenthetical line is actually a claim that the game can be shut down at any time during development and is not discussing post-release updates at all, despite its location after the word "final". I don't know why you do that, but that's what you do, and that's fine. You might not even see a lack of communication here, but even if there is a lack of communication, it's not for lack of trying.

b) I see a loose plan for alpha updates and beta updates and, hopefully, a successful game to be supported on into the future, even post-release. I see an attempt to drum up hype. Then I see them realizing they can't do any of these things, even though they were really excited about it. Oops. Sounds like they got ahead of themselves again. Sounds like they didn't really have any idea that they should communicate the potential for no beta at all. Sounds like a bunch of eager beavers with little real clue how to communicate the risk to the public. I see the lack of communication here as incompetence.

c) Others see lies. They see promised beta updates. They see talk of post-release support as some kind of meaningless hype intended to scam consumers out of $25. They see a lot of noise intended to bring in investors and assume that Double Fine had no real intention of actually doing what they say. They see the lack of communication as an intentional marketing ploy -- i.e., dishonesty.

We can play this game with most of the data on this issue. It's about interpretations and tone, not about the core that everybody agrees on: they didn't do a very good job at communicating (i.e., they made a few mistakes in communication).

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Well I don't fully understand hoe the devs planned this. They never sait that they planned the development to go over 5 years before... and they planned to get enough money over a period of five years for development??? Sounds strange to me... What Tim was basically saying was:

"We can't finish the game, because you were not paying enough for an unfinished and unreleased game."

Sounds like a bad plan and managing to me...

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To be fair most of the claims do stand up to scrutiny if you review the projects. Broken Age is the token example. Games with larger scopes with similar amounts funded (D:OS, cough cough) completed the entire game, not having to break it up to fund a second half with first half sales. I mean I played psychonauts and Grim Fandango, but unlike a lot of people I am not wrapped up in the Schafer cult of personality and the nostalgia - DF essentially rides on Schafers history of making creative games not his savvy business moves.

I disagree. Broken Age is an extremely poor example if you're trying to talk bad money management for reasons I touch on in that post I linked to, but briefly:

* It became clear to them around 6 months into the project that to make the game they wanted to make, they'd need more money.

* They immediately set about matching the backer money with their own, by using Brutal Legend PC sales, Steam Sale Income and other things to invest in the game.

* They realised that they still weren't going to be able to entirely meet their ambitions with what was left, so they took the decision to split the game, which might be viewed as high risk

* But it obviously actually was done with a lot of care, because they made their act 2 numbers after only a month of Act 1 sales (even though Act 1 sales were modest).

* The only plausible explanation for this was that the decision to split the game was only made once they were very confident that they could still finish Act 2 even with modest sales figures.

This doesn't read to me like a company that doesn't know what to do with money. They knew exactly where they were with the budget at every stage, and took steps wherever necessary to sustain development, and do so by raising their own money, instead of making huge cuts to the game.

But anyway, back to Spacebase.

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If you agree that they "could have communicated better" (about risks and the nature of their approach to the project's funding) then I don't think you disagree with any of the naysayers.

As often seems to be the case, KestrelPi, you simply disagree on matters of tone. You choose to assume good intentions and innocent mistakes. That is fine and perhaps accurate. Others choose the word "incompetence". I happen to be one of those. Still others choose to call it "dishonest".

It's really just about your assumptions. I'm not sure any of it really matters, as we all agree that Double Fine could have done a better job (or as some would put it, that they did a bad job).

No, this isn't a tone argument. Dishonesty is a thing, not just a mood that you can apply to a remark. You can identify it, and it has characteristics. Same with incompetence. It's not the same thing as a tone argument which is more like 'I'm sorry you don't like the result but please be nicer about it'. I sort of agree with that, because I generally like civil discussion. But I don't really make it my business to police people's tone. If they want to be abrasive, then they can feel free - but I'm still going to feel free to point out all the gaps in what they are saying.

I agree they could have communicated better on one or two very specific points, which I've carefully outlined. I do not agree that they were dishonest in the way they talked about the game, I do not agree they were necessarily incompetent in its development, although we don't have the whole story and there are areas where, in hindsight I'm sure they could have done better. I have specifically identified the parts of what people are saying that I agree with, and where I don't agree. How is that just a disagreement on matters of tone?

Here's what I hope is a useful example. Let's take your quote from the Alpha 1 blog:

If you buy now you will definitely have the game for life, including future alpha and beta updates and whatever comes after beta, whether it’s considered “final” or not! (We’d love to keep working on the game as long as there’s community interest and ongoing sales.)

Now, look at what's being said. There will be alpha updates. There will be beta updates. There is the hope that they keep adding to the game after release.

Let's look at the reality. There were 0 beta updates. The post-release content will be provided by players, not Double Fine.

a) Your argument is that it was all up in the air and they didn't know, and that they were trying to convey this uncertainty. You say that the reality is actually something they are warning against with this one sentence. Your assumptions give them the benefit of the doubt and places great meaning in a few words. You are sympathetic. You say that the parenthetical line is actually a claim that the game can be shut down at any time during development and is not discussing post-release updates at all, despite its location after the word "final". I don't know why you do that, but that's what you do, and that's fine. You might not even see a lack of communication here, but even if there is a lack of communication, it's not for lack of trying.

b) I see a loose plan for alpha updates and beta updates and, hopefully, a successful game to be supported on into the future, even post-release. I see an attempt to drum up hype. Then I see them realizing they can't do any of these things, even though they were really excited about it. Oops. Sounds like they got ahead of themselves again. Sounds like they didn't really have any idea that they should communicate the potential for no beta at all. Sounds like a bunch of eager beavers with little real clue how to communicate the risk to the public. I see the lack of communication here as incompetence.

c) Others see lies. They see promised beta updates. They see talk of post-release support as some kind of meaningless hype intended to scam consumers out of $25. They see a lot of noise intended to bring in investors and assume that Double Fine had no real intention of actually doing what they say. They see the lack of communication as an intentional marketing ploy -- i.e., dishonesty.

We can play this game with most of the data on this issue. It's about interpretations and tone, not about the core that everybody agrees on: they didn't do a very good job at communicating (i.e., they made a few mistakes in communication).

Like I said, incompetence and dishonesty aren't just mood lighting you can throw on an argument to change the tone, they have meaning. Just because I agree with you on one particular, specific aspect of miscommunication doesn't mean we are in agreement and the rest is just tone. Don't be silly.

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