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Where are Double Fine's Supporters on Steam?

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I'm happy to defend Double Fine when I happen to stumble upon an ignorant internet vagrant. But internet arguments are tiresome, so I don't make it a priority to go out looking for them.

Other companies/devs have done things analogous or significantly worse than anything that has happened with BA or SBDF9, but for some reason DF seems to be getting a worse punishment from the internet hoards. The rage is out of proportion with the deed. It's kinda ridiculous.

I can only speculate as to why. I suppose one reason might be because these bigger companies are more sort of faceless corporations whereas Double Fine has chosen to be a lot more open and intimate with the public.

I guess it's the difference between, say, McDonald's and a really good local Ma & Pop diner. If the former does something people don't like, they're just like, "Of course. Corporations are huge emotionless machines. No point in complaining." And they get on with their day. But if something disappointing happens at Ma & Pop's, then clearly this bullsh** was Pop's fault, and HE MUST PAY.

Compared to more huger companies, Double Fine shows you much more of its face. Showing that much face makes DF more intimate with the public, but perhaps it also makes them more susceptible to taking one on the chin from the roaming internet a**holes out there just looking for a target to hit.

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I can only speculate as to why. I suppose one reason might be because these bigger companies are more sort of faceless corporations whereas Double Fine has chosen to be a lot more open and intimate with the public.

From my point of view, this is the reason and yet it isn't the reason.

I wasn't the slightest bit upset at DF when I read that Spacebase was cancelled. I was a bit disappointed, sure, but I was okay with it - until I read the discussions and learned about what JP posted just month prior. From then onwards, the situation started to clear up and it became obvious to me that Double Fine was a company of lying and deceiving scumbags who would gladly foster misconceptions in order to make some extra cash. Someone had made the decision to keep the cancellation a secret (obviously for financial reasons), while still allowing communications that looked like they weren't keeping any such secrets and were instead progressing as usual.

I can't speak for others and I don't know why other people are upset, but I'm upset because DF acted like they were being open even though they really weren't. I hate being deceived.

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I can only speculate as to why. I suppose one reason might be because these bigger companies are more sort of faceless corporations whereas Double Fine has chosen to be a lot more open and intimate with the public.

From my point of view, this is the reason and yet it isn't the reason.

I wasn't the slightest bit upset at DF when I read that Spacebase was cancelled. I was a bit disappointed, sure, but I was okay with it - until I read the discussions and learned about what JP posted just month prior. From then onwards, the situation started to clear up and it became obvious to me that Double Fine was a company of lying and deceiving scumbags who would gladly foster misconceptions in order to make some extra cash. Someone had made the decision to keep the cancellation a secret (obviously for financial reasons), while still allowing communications that looked like they weren't keeping any such secrets and were instead progressing as usual.

I can't speak for others and I don't know why other people are upset, but I'm upset because DF acted like they were being open even though they really weren't. I hate being deceived.

Do you realize how much of a child you sound like?

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I'm happy to defend Double Fine when I happen to stumble upon an ignorant internet vagrant. But internet arguments are tiresome, so I don't make it a priority to go out looking for them.

..

Compared to more huger companies, Double Fine shows you much more of its face. Showing that much face makes DF more intimate with the public, but perhaps it also makes them more susceptible to taking one on the chin from the roaming internet a**holes out there just looking for a target to hit.

First, Community Representation is something that DF has been lacking in for over 2 years. Omission of information directly led to the current situation with DF9 and the current social "uprising" in social media complaining about the development milestones slipping in other games from different divisions of Double Fine.

At the minute there's no transparency, and for games being developed with 20,000 stakeholders, that's an interesting projection to have to maintain, that they are infallible, or that they are going well. Yes, Double Fine really needs to spend money on a Community Relations team to handle Tim Schafer's ego, and public persona if he's going to take money from tens of thousands of people in crowd funding and development, because that's his livelihood now. His statements, and the statements of the employees also need to be evaluated, because other people will do it in lieu of the San Franciscan laissez-faire attitude of letting it slide.

Without some kind of relationship with kickstarter backers and early access funders, it will just brew resentment and castigation when a small change needs to happen and nobody is there to answer questions. Let alone abandoning a project. It also leads to speculation threads like this one about the 12 people fired / retired from DF.

http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/15810/

or comments like this

I can't speak for others and I don't know why other people are upset, but I'm upset because DF acted like they were being open even though they really weren't. I hate being deceived.

Do you realize how much of a child you sound like?

so, i'll say this, @chapter11, you're a fan. Are you someone who did buy Spacebase DF9 via Early Access or did you fund the game from the DF website ? Do you like the current development status of the game ? Do you know if any of the 4 staff who built the game are still around, or is this a sign of the "fly by night" standards that JP (@vectorpoem) was insisting was not present when he wrote his post on the DFAF forums.

i.e. Tim / JP's responses.

http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/14974/

http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/14956/

one month earlier, JP's response on the lack of updates in DF9

http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/14960/#353671

Double Fine is not a random fly-by-night indie dev and we are not going to silently pull the plug on Spacebase or any other in-development project. Doing so would be disastrous for our reputation and it would kill us emotionally ;____;

What has happened lately on Spacebase is that we're trying something different with regard to communication. Our hypothesis is that short, regular, relatively low-value updates (things like in-progress screenshots of new UI) don't really serve much more purpose than telling people "we're not dead!" The time cost of doing those is pretty small, but our team has been 3-4 people since Alpha 1's release and I wanted to see what the impact would be - both on our side and on the player side.

I knew there would be threads like this when we undertook this direction, and we've been watching the various forums closely. I completely understand how one can read a lack of response as a lack of concern, but nothing could be further from the truth. We come to Double Fine every day and work hard to make Spacebase better. It's our baby and we love working on it. Some player criticism just isn't very easy to respond to - we know exactly what's happening with the project, and we could either give an extended brain dump of all that, or we could try to sum it up and risk misleading through brevity or making some specific promise we can't keep.

... We want to tell you a story, we want to make you curious about things. Please be patient for a little while longer. Thanks so much for your continued passion and support.

people are angry for a very consistent reason. Deception.

JP's role as lead, and his post in September, http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/14956/

one month before the project closure created an entirely different impression than the one that developed as a result of that omission, or deception.

Second point, Kickstarter backers are investors. From a legal standpoint, they need to be treated as stakeholders, even if they are silent partners in the development of a project.

Third, Early Access, via Steam/Valve is not Kickstarter. it's not a Stakeholder Arrangement, it is a commitment to purchase a retail copy of a game. This funding model should act more like a beta or alpha stage of review, rather than as a development foothold to gain funding for expansion.

Fourth, Steam is a community with 7-10 million players. DFAF is maybe 50,000 (unverified) >Steam expects a different level of professionalism than DFAF, because there's 900+ other games to play, and an entirely different set of goals, expectations, community and size of influence in that community.

DFAF, on the other hand, has more serious problems than Steam forums, because it's not inherently representative.

The problem of having a community that's so trusting and faithful is when the faith is eroded, there's no substance to fall back on.

In DFAF, the posts just get deleted, so you never see the resentment when this happens, the walled garden of DFAF also prevents people providing useful criticism because everyone's a fan and don't want the dissonance of dealing with critics. Not when there's an ignore or a flag button to use.

Fifth, Notice those 2 buttons at the top of the post , [report ] and [ignore] ? that's where you'll find open, healthy discussion of Dobulefine's problems, filtered, reported, or ignored. Steam is not filtered, it is angry and vitriolic. It's a more important measure than DFAF is, because thats where people will judge the quality of a game, in an environment with thousands of other games. i.e not a walled garden.

We might support the concept of a 'Small' company fighting against the big guys, but DF productions is multi-million dollar productions in a very, very expensive location for software production, where the budget isn't compatible with smaller projects. How else would you explain the firing of the DF9 team lead, and the glacial development speed of a project that took 18 months to deliver changes.

DF9's issues stem from either a lack of support, a lack of development, a lack of commitment to getting support from the company, or some kind of executive failure. it's not Steam's fauit, steam members have actually developed nearly 60 unofficial patches to resolve structural and gameplay issues with the most recent build, despite the reproach and vitriol.

If Spacebase DF9 was an elaborate test bed for their LUA engine in other games, like Hack 'n' Slash, that deserves a fair mention as well, or at least a post-mortem from someone in the Doublefine corporate structure to explain why things went that way, and what prevents the same actions from happening in other development titles.

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There was no deception at all, there was just a lot of bad communication. I'm so sick and tired of explaining this that I can't be bothered to do it again. But it's true that DF is reaping the price of putting programmers in charge of their PR. Other than that, nothing you've said is correct.

In fact, the rest of your post is so dishonest, filled with lies and deliberate exaggerations, that it's hard to take you seriously when you're accusing someone else of doing the same. Congrats on being the Bill O'Reilly of DF haters.

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There was no deception at all, there was just a lot of bad communication. I'm so sick and tired of explaining this that I can't be bothered to do it again. But it's true that DF is reaping the price of putting programmers in charge of their PR. Other than that, nothing you've said is correct.

In fact, the rest of your post is so dishonest, filled with lies and deliberate exaggerations, that it's hard to take you seriously when you're accusing someone else of doing the same. Congrats on being the Bill O'Reilly of DF haters.

Contrary to your opinion, nothing i've said is inherently dishonest. If you believe it is, quote me and i will respond to your allegation more sincerely. regarding exaggeration, i don't know where you think i'm exaggerating. i'm using information from a variety of sources.

1. JP is the project lead. If there was anyone else handling PR, it's not clear who that is.

I use the "Fly By Night" quote, because it's an important, and notably, the only community feedback the game received in 5 months from an official source. By comparison, nearly every other title in production has had a more consistent level of feedback from developers, from Broken Age to Massive Chalice, to the smaller titles as well.

As a buyer of the Early Access version of DF9 from Alpha 3 to 1.0.6, my experience is that Doublefine provided only a small amount of content, direction, publicity or influence from that stage nearly a year ago. I did not view the DFAF forums until July 2014 when looking for ways to provide feedback. Again, please feel free to correct me; or doxx, quote mine my DFAF / Steam responses, or anything that would provide you a moral victory.

If i have to prove my bonafides to respond, i think we're at cross purposes regardless.

2. I've only ever seen direct statements from JP, Tim Schafer, and the website for DF9.

If there are any other statements i should have read, please link them to me, as i have only ever seen the Steam Early access page, the DF9 store, and DFAF replies, which i do not in any way hold as official statements.

Again, if i'm referring to disingenuous, deceitful or posting incorrect information, please link to the correct information.

3. Early Access is not a funding system. Kickstarter, is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_access

http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/173353-kickstarter-and-early-access-games-are-ruining-pc-gaming

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2851022/valve-to-steam-early-access-game-makers-tone-down-the-hype.html

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-11-13-early-access-popularity-growing-but-only-25-percent-have-released-as-a-full-game

From the Wikipedia page

The early access approach has been criticized by some; as noted by Ben Kurchera of Polygon stated that the early access model validates the use of unfinished games as a "valid business strategy".[16] While those that buy into the early access do get an incomplete game to play, test out, and provide input to the developers, these people also run the risk that the game will never be completed or may be a sub-par product.[17] As an example, the game Earth: Year 2066 was placed on Steam's early access with numerous promised features, but found by those that purchased the title that the game has numerous programming bugs making it unplayable, that it failed to approach its promises on the product page and used a number of assets from the commercial game engine. Many users, including Jim Sterling of The Escapist,[18] called out on both its developer Killing Day Studios for abusing the Early Access program and for Valve to remove the title for fraudulently representing gameplay. Valve subsequently removed the title and refunded money, noting that while developers using Early Access have the right to promote and set the pricing for their games, "Steam does require honesty from developers in the marketing of their games".[19]

Another example is the forementioned Spacebase DF-9; while the development team from Double Fine had laid out plans for several features and gameplay improvements over time, Double Fine opted to end its full-time development, completing its Early Access and releasing a final product that while fully playable lacked many of the planned features; the company will continue to fix critical bugs with the game and will include support for user modifications via Steam's Workshop channel but will not create any new content for the game itself, disappointing many players of the game that were looking forwards to these planned features. Double Fine's Tim Schafer stated that they opted for this solution as while DF-9 represented their first experiment with the Early Access approach, they had reached a point where the amount of money earned from sales of the game in Early Access were not covering the production costs, and the timeline to reach the planned goals would have been several years down the road.[20]

Due to some of these more notable failures, by 2014 Early Access has gained a negative connotation, as games do not have the quality assurances of complete titles, and in the case of Steam's Early Access, the lack of curating and testing by Steam to make sure the games are representative of the storefront's description.[21] Some players also worry about the "double dip" effect, in which a game may be promoted twice, first through its introduction on Early Access, and then on its subsequent full release.[21] In November 2014, Valve updated its Early Access rules for developers to address concerns that had been raised. Among these include the statement that games on Early Access should be in a playable alpha or beta state, there are clear expectations of what the final product of the game will be like, and that the developer intends to continue work on the game, and can be financial stable to ultimately release a finished product.[22]

Phil Savage's article http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/09/22/tim-schafer-explains-spacebase-df-9s-v1-0-release/

soft-balls Schafer's response, but links to a separate article from Binky

http://theindiestone.com/binky/2014/09/21/alpha-funding-early-access-is-not-an-alternative/ which then contains the link to the "costs" problem that Schafer, and DF work from.

i.e.

,
Average team size: About 12 people. Cost to employ one person per month in SF: about $10k

With DF9's 4 person team, and a funding budget of $400k, they spent a good portion of that development prior to the launch on Valve's Early Access system, given they were funded "publicly" by indie fund, http://indie-fund.com/2013/11/spacebase-df-9-recoups-investment-in-two-weeks/

that was a year ago. very little has changed since November 2013, you can argue that this isn't the case, but you should probably check the Let's Play video series from the November 2013 game, from Scott Manley

reviewing Alpha 3 from nearly a year ago.

i quote all of this above, where i'm infering that kickstarter funding is different to Early Access, because it's not treated by other developers as a funding system, nor should it be used as such. So there has to be another motive as to why DF9 was placed into this category, or why it was shelved and the project lead fired.

I speculate, because I can, and I should.

As a purchaser of a title that has been critically judged to be unfinished in the press, and by the majority of reviewers on Steam, at the point of sale of the game in a commercial market, there has to be a point of criticism that resounds in reality, and not on the objective measure of success in a forum created for the company producing the game.

What in my post is disingenuous ? the speculation ? the use of quotes to back up my points ? the opinions i have ? beliefs i have been expousing or advocating ?

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that was a year ago. very little has changed since November 2013, you can argue that this isn't the case, but you should probably check the Let's Play video series from the November 2013 game, from Scott Manley

reviewing Alpha 3 from nearly a year ago.

That's bollocks for a start. Tons of new features came in since Alpha 3. I was going to list them all (well, the major ones only) but there wasn't enough room to paste the text. It's true that a lot of the features they wanted to implement didn't make it but they weren't twiddling their thumbs for a year either. They made a multitude of major changes to the game. Check the blog.

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"They are lying scumbugs"

"Deception"

Too much ignorance in this thread for my energy level. You guys have fun in here. I'm gonna go do something that restores my faith in humanity instead of making me lose it.

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"They are lying scumbugs"

"Deception"

Too much ignorance in this thread for my energy level. You guys have fun in here. I'm gonna go do something that restores my faith in humanity instead of making me lose it.

Pretty much that. Lying scumbags is jus too low, and not a term anyone should use in discussions like this if you want to be taken serious.

There's no secret that Spacebase is not a project that went well, and that the communication could have been handled better. But shit happens, it really isn't more to it than that. DF is a developer that's been around for 14 years, and there have been two projects of all their releases that caused these kind of discussion:

1. Spacebase - Where DF did well to compensate, by actually finishing up the product as best as they could, provided support patches afterwards, added modding capabilities and gave a free game on top of that.

2. Broken Age - A game that has taken longer time then expected, but always shown progress.

If people want to shit on DF because of those two, they're free to do so, But it is a really sad behaviour, and people who does it really ought to ask themselves if they want to be that guy/gal.

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I can cut through all this nonsense (and man, how much nonsense) in one word: "Deception".

Double Fine deceived us... why? They lost money, reputation, and fans. You insist this was some sinister plot, so please explain what they gained.

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I tried in vain to get people to answer that question for weeks, Thunderpeel. They rant and rave about what swindlers and con artists DF supposedly are, but when you point out that they sacrificed their own money, beyond what they had budgeted for Spacebase, in order to get the last couple content updates and bug fixes out none of these detractors want to explain how that equates to a malicious con.

Double Fine's detractors have a set of broken-record accusations they keep bringing up over and over again, all of which are either baseless conjecture or blatant lies, and when you point out how untrue or misinformed one statement is, instead of addressing that they just repeat a different lie. The next day, they're invading another forum thread or starting a new steam discussion thread making the exact same statements that have already been shot down.

These guys are trolls, and nothing more. Those of them with DFAF accounts have very few posts, ALL of which are nothing but attacks on DF or attempts to instigate argument; they do literally NOTHING positive or constructive in our community and I'm honestly amazed some of them haven't been banned yet.

On a lighter note, I got one of my dwarf-fortress veteran friends semi-addicted to Spacebase, and Massive Chalice is being very well-recieved on Steam, despite certain people DESPERATELY trying to cause drama in the forums without much success.

And the occasional illiterate or uninformed individual attempting to berate Broken Age's progress doesn't warrant more than an eyeroll and a correcting of facts.

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Pretty much that. Lying scumbags is jus too low, and not a term anyone should use in discussions like this if you want to be taken serious.

After 1.0 was announced, Tim said they didn't announce the cancellation of the project earlier because they kept believing it would work out until the very end. However, JP also made a post and he doesn't seem to be so skilled at this PR lies business and accidentally told the truth: the call to wrap up things had happened long ago already and they knew the end was coming.

Therefore, Tim's PR statement and his excuse for the bad communication was a blatant lie. Sure they might have tried to see if sales would improve, but they definitely did not believe in it.

In addition, by not telling the truth beforehand they committed a lie by omission, which I already addressed before so I won't elaborate on that further.

I apologize for the use of the word "scumbags" though, it was a little bit emotional. I should have used the word "scoundrels" instead since it's more descriptive.

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Double Fine deceived us... why? They lost money, reputation, and fans. You insist this was some sinister plot, so please explain what they gained.

They did it because they thought they could get away with it. It didn't work out too well.

They had financial problems as we learned when they later laid off 12 people (such as the Spacebase project lead). There was a plausible (even if short sighted) financial motive for their actions.

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Pretty much that. Lying scumbags is jus too low, and not a term anyone should use in discussions like this if you want to be taken serious.

After 1.0 was announced, Tim said they didn't announce the cancellation of the project earlier because they kept believing it would work out until the very end. However, JP also made a post and he doesn't seem to be so skilled at this PR lies business and accidentally told the truth: the call to wrap up things had happened long ago already and they knew the end was coming.

Therefore, Tim's PR statement and his excuse for the bad communication was a blatant lie. Sure they might have tried to see if sales would improve, but they definitely did not believe in it.

In addition, by not telling the truth beforehand they committed a lie by omission, which I already addressed before so I won't elaborate on that further.

I apologize for the use of the word "scumbags" though, it was a little bit emotional. I should have used the word "scoundrels" instead since it's more descriptive.

Well scoundrel is not that different. Both that word and the previous use of the word scumbag implies that you're really certain that everything was based on intentionally deceitful behaviour. But ask yourself these questions:

1. What did DF really gain from those PR constructs as you see them, considering that this was about a project being cancelled because it didn't sell? They're way of handling communication could have resulted in some extra sold copies. But how much money would that have meant, really?

2. And based on the first question, do you think that it would have been an amount that big that a company that have prided themselves for being open and close to their fans would risk their reputation for it?

3. Does DF really have a history about being that kind of company?

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1. What did DF really gain from those PR constructs as you see them, considering that this was about a project being cancelled because it didn't sell? They're way of handling communication could have resulted in some extra sold copies. But how much money would that have meant, really?

The game was definitely selling, just not selling enough. We're talking about a 3-4 man team at $10k/month expenses per person (their numbers, not mine). If you believe their words that they were hoping the sales would improve, it means the sales must've been strong enough to cover a meaningful amount of that.

The ongoing sales were at risk. Since they knew the situation months prior to the announcement, I imagine the amount of money at risk could've been anything between $50k and $100k (assuming they weren't going to abandon the game even earlier). Collapse of sales could've meant premature release without tutorial or DF having to pay these expenses of finishing the game themselves, or taking a loan to do so. I'm guessing Tim didn't really believe in Spacebase as a product because he didn't choose any of the alternative approaches.

2. And based on the first question, do you think that it would have been an amount that big that a company that have prided themselves for being open and close to their fans would risk their reputation for it?

I don't think they realized how big of a risk they were taking. However, considering their financial troubles that have surfaced afterwards, I'd say yes. Also, the evidence suggests there was a gag order in place forbidding the staff from telling what was going on, so if it wasn't for financial reasons then why?

3. Does DF really have a history about being that kind of company?

I have no idea, and their past makes no difference anyway. They did what they did and the facts speak for themselves.

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They did what they did and the facts speak for themselves.

The problem is that most of the arguments you presented in your post are based on speculation and not on facts. In the case of Spacebase DF-9 we simply don't have a lot of facts to work with. That obviously points to one of the big problems of this project (i.e. communication), but it's also one of the reasons why I would refrain from throwing harsh accusations at people and call them out as being deceitful, liars and scumbags.

The ongoing sales were at risk. Since they knew the situation months prior to the announcement, I imagine the amount of money at risk could’ve been anything between $50k and $100k (assuming they weren’t going to abandon the game even earlier). Collapse of sales could’ve meant premature release without tutorial or DF having to pay these expenses of finishing the game themselves, or taking a loan to do so. I’m guessing Tim didn’t really believe in Spacebase as a product because he didn’t choose any of the alternative approaches.

Thing is, we don't know anything about the financing of Spacebase, except that the initial alpha version was funded by Indiefund and a few others and that it was subsequently sold on Early Access, where it soon recouped that initial investment. That's all we know. Double Fine may very well have invested money from sales of their other games into this project, which I think is quite plausible, but they have to draw a line somewhere. The fact that they had to lay off 12 people recently, I'd say is evidence enough that they didn't have an infinite pile of money that they could throw at the game. Regarding loans I've always been under the impression that it's very hard - if not impossible - to get a loan in order to fund a piece of entertainment.

I fully understand that people are disappointed with the whole Spacebase situation. I was pretty disappointed with it myself, but considering how Double Fine has communicated and delivered on a lot of their other projects (Broken Age, Massive Chalice) I can't help but feel sympathy for them.

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Double Fine deceived us... why? They lost money, reputation, and fans. You insist this was some sinister plot, so please explain what they gained.

They did it because they thought they could get away with it. It didn't work out too well.

They had financial problems as we learned when they later laid off 12 people (such as the Spacebase project lead). There was a plausible (even if short sighted) financial motive for their actions.

Well I'm convinced.

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The problem is that most of the arguments you presented in your post are based on speculation and not on facts. In the case of Spacebase DF-9 we simply don’t have a lot of facts to work with.

It's impossible to get indisputable facts about Double Fine's motives, and it's perfectly possible that they're just incompetent and not evil. My speculation isn't based on complicated assumptions though, everything stems from the simple contradictions in the things DF has said and done. These contradictions demonstrate a level of corporate selfishness that definitely feels "evil", thus the harsh words.

Double Fine may very well have invested money from sales of their other games into this project, which I think is quite plausible, but they have to draw a line somewhere.

That's not the issue. I'm okay with them killing the failed project and I'm not blaming them for that decision.

However, the fans saw the signs and were asking if the project was being cancelled, and DF assured them that everything was going as planned. Afterwards Tim said it was never clear the development was going to end, while JP revealed that the decision to wrap things up had happened much earlier. These conflicting statements are making me uncomfortable, especially since DF never bothered to clarify the issues afterwards.

I understand you'd rather give them the benefit of doubt, but I see plenty of evidence that DF isn't being honest about what happened and what they did.

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I don't think the statements conflict as much as you think. They're pretty vague statements and you're reading a whole lot of extra stuff into them.

So Tim said that right up until the end they were hoping to rescue the project, and that's probably true. Why is it probably true? A couple of things:

1) They were putting their own money into the project by this point. There'd be no reason to put your own money into a project that you'd already written off as having a 100% chance of failure.

2) As much as they might have expected it to not be rescuable, it would have been much more negligent not to try, from their perspective. They -could- have halted development, pulled the plug on everything and just released there and then. They didn't. They spent their own money, put the game on sale multiple times, released what was quite a significant update in Alpha 6 before making the final decision.

And JP said that it was clear quite early on that the development was going to have to be wrapped up. These statements are somewhat conflicting, but not necessarily contradictory

1) It might be that JP saw the writing on the wall and had very little confidence that sales would pick up enough to rescue the development, which in his words would have been it was clear dev would have to wrap up early. But that doesn't mean that they weren't going to try everything they could do to a) stop that from happening as possible and b) keep the development going as long as possible.

So, in the end, they took a gamble, and it was a gamble probably based on a few considerations:

- They wanted to rescue the game if possible (which is the side Tim has emphasised)

- They knew that as it stood, this was unlikely to happen (which is the side JP emphasised)

And caught in the middle of this was what to tell the early access buyers: Do they go for complete transparency, and risk sealing the game's fate by revealing to the world the game is a failure and probably forcing them to pull the plug very soon after as already weak sales plummet? Or do they take one last stab at reviving it which likely would not work, but would probably buy them the time they need to release a version 1.0 which, if not the game they wanted to make, was at least arguably a complete experience (which it totally is, bugs aside which they still seem to be supporting).

They're not great choices, are they?

There's no answer which would have made everyone happy. I think, actually, what should have happened was way earlier on when they first hit financial rough patch, they should have been financially transparent -then- to prepare people for the idea that this project may fail. At the point they had to make the above decision, there was no way of making it appear sympathetic. So there were massive errors in communication that happened early on in the project.

I think the decision to go with option b) (attempt to finish the game, slimmed down) was probably the wrong one, in hindsight, but option a) (belated transparency + pulling the plug) isn't really much better. I very much understand why they did b) it at this stage, having missed the boat on being more transparent earlier like I talked about in the previous paragraph. I imagine it was an unpleasant decision to have to make by all concerned. Abandon a project completely? Or try a last ditch attempt to finish a slimmed-down version of the project? Yes, they at least partially brought this upon themselves. But through mistakes - mistakes that I can imagine any developer making, not through outright malice.

Anyway, my point is I don't really see the statements as contradictory, they're basically just telling two different sides of the same story, and are consistent with Tim's fairly optimistic attitude and JP's more down to earth interpretations of events.

The thing I'm interested in is are they learning from mistakes. And, well, so far we have Massive Chalice to look at for that. This has come onto Early Access in a much more complete state, it has been funded through to its projected release date, so that they're not relying on Early Access funds to finish development, and they've been releasing regular patches, and also streamed updates on development, so that everyone knows exactly what they're getting, and they've announced the scope for finishing everything off in advance.

If DF can learn from their past mistakes, as it seems like they're doing, I'm willing to forgive quite a large early access blunder.

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It seems we agree about a lot of things, even about the gamble. And although it was a bit ugly and definitely a moral hazard, I also agree the gamble itself was an acceptable move.

As you say, the problem was communication. However, I see it differently than you do, as I see more than just the lack of transparency at play. They didn't simply hide the gamble, they actually communicated on that very subject by answering questions about development status. By giving assurances that the development was ongoing, they acted like buying the game was not taking part in any sort of gamble at all.

Had it been all passive silence it would've been a case of "buyer beware", but it's different since they actively reinforced the idea that the development was going to continue even though they knew otherwise. This is the beef of the issue to me.

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Well then since we're not as far off as it might seem, let's examine what was said about the development status, in recent months, and see how that matches up to reality.

What mainly marked out the last few months of development was actually things going a bit quiet, aside from the rather significant release of Alpha 6.

Ahead of that, JP said something that people have made a lot of:

Double Fine is not a random fly-by-night indie dev and we are not going to silently pull the plug on Spacebase or any other in-development project. Doing so would be disastrous for our reputation and it would kill us emotionally ;____;

What has happened lately on Spacebase is that we’re trying something different with regard to communication. Our hypothesis is that short, regular, relatively low-value updates (things like in-progress screenshots of new UI) don’t really serve much more purpose than telling people “we’re not dead!” The time cost of doing those is pretty small, but our team has been 3-4 people since Alpha 1’s release and I wanted to see what the impact would be - both on our side and on the player side.

I knew there would be threads like this when we undertook this direction, and we’ve been watching the various forums closely. I completely understand how one can read a lack of response as a lack of concern, but nothing could be further from the truth. We come to Double Fine every day and work hard to make Spacebase better. It’s our baby and we love working on it. Some player criticism just isn’t very easy to respond to - we know exactly what’s happening with the project, and we could either give an extended brain dump of all that, or we could try to sum it up and risk misleading through brevity or making some specific promise we can’t keep.

Now clearly they had decided by this point not to reveal that the project was in financial trouble, because they were hoping Alpha 6 plus some sales might perk it up one last time. But I also don't think anything that JP said in there was particularly deceptive, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I just don't believe that JP has the temperament of someone who would wilfully mislead (from a long time of following him as a developer, and knowing people that know him). If he'd wanted to have been non-commital, he could -easily- have said 'Yes, the game is still being worked on and Alpha 6 is coming soon - and we'll have more news for you soon. Sorry that it's been quiet lately' or words to that effect. I think he was being as straightforward as he could be at this point, given that the team had agreed not to discuss financials of the project (an understandable, if wrong-in-hindsight position).

Secondly, I don't really see anything wrong with the "Double Fine is not a random fly-by-night indie dev and we are not going to silently pull the plug on Spacebase or any other in-development project" statement. They did not silently pull the plug, they announced their 1.0 plans well in advance of its actual release. I don't agree with the manner of the announcement (I would have liked to have seen more up-front discussion of what led to them having to do this, as it would have saved them some trouble later). But they did announce it, and then they spent nearly two months of development time, quite probably mainly out of their own pocket, fixing bugs, adding other features to turn it into something releasable, even if it wasn't as full-featured as the game they intended. There have been plenty of developers, on early access, who HAVE pulled the plug after realising that they can't make the game. DF didn't do this. They made a reduced version of the game they wanted to make, they supported it post release, lowered the price and tried to compensate by giving away a free game (the in-my-opinion excellent Hack 'n' Slash).

So, in genuine major mistakes I put

- not communicating the trouble the game was in earlier, which would have saved a lot of later backlash, I feel, but is obviously much easier to say with hindsight.

- not communicating the 1.0 release in the right way

- probably, launching onto early access too early, which probably hurt the long tail of the project.

But I just don't think the deception you imply in your second paragraph there, happened on any real scale. Like I say - the last few months of the project was mostly characterised by silence, with a brief statement from JP that I can't really find any real malice in.

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JP's post is fairly strong and emotional and assures that the development is ongoing. Even if he doesn't directly say how long the work will continue, it gives the wrong impression. He wrote that message with a tone of dedication and passion, something that Double Fine didn't have for the game even if he himself did.

However, starting from the first words of the post, he speaks of Double Fine and not himself. He is giving the impression that this dedication is shared by the company as well, which is highly misleading. He already knew they were wrapping things up when he wrote that post, so it's difficult to understand why he chose his words the way he did. Then again, I suppose it's because he's a programmer and not a writer or a lawyer.

Ironically, the communication strategy he explains in the post is probably to blame for how I read the post itself. They were maintaining an intentional communications silence and this resulted in significant emphasis on that one single post, making it much more meaningful than it was meant to be.

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Yes, and I genuinely think that everyone at DF wanted the project to continue. If they didn't, then they wouldn't have put their own money into it, would they? You don't lose money on a project that you're not interested in succeeding. You lose money when you're trying to do everything you can to rescue it.

That said, we don't know the whole story. Maybe there are things DF could have done better, funding-wise and development-wise that would have given the game a better chance. In fact, there almost certainly were things. It would be weirder if there weren't. I don't see any reason to disbelieve his claim that DF did care about the game. In fact, just earlier you were saying that the apparent 'conflict' in the statements was that JP was implying the decision was made much earlier where Tim was saying they were trying up until the end.

In fact, the truth seems to be that both are true in different ways. They knew a long time ago that the project was in trouble, AND they were hoping to rescue it right up to the end. But at the same time they HAD to plan for an early release, in case (as happened) it got to the point where they couldn't work on it any longer. If they hadn't done that, they really WOULD have had to 'pull the plug' with very little warning.

So in fact, in a few ways what they did was quite responsible. They knew in advance the possibility that development would have to end earlier than hoped, and shifted their priorities accordingly.

It's like... you ever see that show, Scrapheap Challenge? (Junkyard Wars in the US I think). It's a show where two teams go through a bunch of junk to build a machine in a time limit, and the machine which is best at what it's supposed to do (maybe the challenge is to be the fastest or most accurate or shoot the furthest or whatever) wins.

It's like a version of that, except they didn't know what the time limit was. So they came up with a big, sort of maximal design for this chitty-chitty bang bang style car which did lots of different things and started to get to work. Then a little way into the design, they start to suspect the time limit might be a lot shorter than they thought. Knowing that, the right thing to do is start to design around 'okay, what's the minimum we need to do to get this thing running?' so they concentrate on the wheels and the engine and the steering and make sure that's ready.

But just because they're doing that doesn't mean they've abandoned the chitty chitty bang bang dreams. It just means that they've got the thing to a point that if they do need to wind down development, the -minimum- car they wanted to make would be in place. If, it turned out, they got an extension on the amount of time they had, there's no reason to suppose there's no interest in that any longer, just because they took some steps to prepare to wind it down.

And similarly, if they'd managed to rescue DF-9 sales then it would have continued, and I think everyone wanted it to and was willing it to - it's just that they had to -prepare- early on for the probability that they'd have to wind it down.

(all the previously acknowledged problems with the communication still stand of course)

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The bottom line is this: If they'd announced the project was having difficulty a month before they shut it down, people would have understood, and taken its eventual closure, much better than they did. They may have even gone out of their way to get their friends to buy a copy in order to keep the game afloat a little longer. It was the slap out of nowhere that people didn't like.

Any argument that DF suddenly decided to become an evil company, after a decade and a half of being really cool to their fans, and deliberately deceive everyone for financial profit makes no sense.

Also, for what it's worth, here's a breakdown of what happened, with figures (based on a worst case scenario from the initial funding):

November 2012: Amnesia Fortnight - prototype is created.

December 2012: The game was nominated for development. A business model of alpha funding (funds rolling in from continuous sales -- a la Minecraft, Prison Architect, etc.) was selected. Funding was sought to build the initial offering.

January 2013: 400K funding found. Teams were set, development began.

...

October 2013: Initial offering goes on sale. Sells over 20K copies and immediately recoups 400K outlay. The game is in the black, and set for continuous development with monthly sales funding it.

As the initial alpha cost around $400,000 (probably more) to build over a 10-11 month period, we can see that the four man team cost $40,000 a month (which is what Tim himself tweeted about developer costs). This means that if DF got $7.50 for every Steam sale (based on what we know about IndieFund and Valve), they needed 5,000+ sales a month to sustain development into the future. This isn't that much.

To put things into perspective, Prison Architect has averaged at least 14,000 sales a month for the past two years. The game only needed 60,000 sales a year to stay afloat, and they sold 20,000+K copies in the first two weeks! Unfortunately it seems there was then a drop off. It appears they only managed to sell around 50,000 copies overall… with sales then dropping below the required 5,000 a month, to about half of what they needed to keep everyone employed (never mind about making an actual profit).

In hindsight it would have been great if they'd made everyone aware that sales had taken a dip to below what they needed, but there were risks with that option: The right review, or the right new feature, might suddenly boost the games popularity and bring it back into profitability. They didn't need to sell THAT many games to keep afloat, after all. Announcing there were problems might have rallied the fans into pushing the game out there, but it also could have prematurely killed it, instantly.

JP was probably optimistic until the moment that the powers that be told him that his project needed to be shut down.

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Yeah, I think what often gets lost in all of this is that the game really didn't need to be a smash hit in order to be sustainable. The estimates that DF made of what numbers they needed to make to make development sustainable were likely conservative. As Thunderpeel points out, they could have easily carried on with a small fraction of the success of a game like Prison Architect, which a fairly modest goal.

They didn't hit it, clearly. If they had, the game would still be in development. And we can, of course, look at why this is

- was it out on early access too early? Perhaps. But there's nothing malicious about that, it's a mistake that's much easier to ruminate over in hindsight.

- Did the funding deal with IndieFund, despite being one of the most generous funding models available to developers outside? Maybe if they hadn't had commitments, the development could have lasted longer, but it's all a bit academic because the initial alpha couldn't have been made in the first place without some form of funding. If it wasn't Indie Fund, it probably would have been something less favourable.

- Did they not market it well enough? Quite possibly. Marketing for DF has always been spotty. Arguably Hack 'n' Slash suffered similarly, despite being properly finished.

I don't think they conducted this project in bad faith. I think they made a number of mistakes, some more easily avoidable than other, and only one (the communication of 1.0 plans and the lead up to that) which I think needs apologising for (which they in fact did)

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