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DF Chris Remo

Episode 10: Part One of Something Great

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It's difficult to speak meaningfully on budgets, since we have so few data points & must make so many assumptions, but I've read all the posts in this thread and quite a few comments on the Kickstarter page & there's some things I feel are missing from the conversation. Basically, I agree with Greg; they would have been better off simply releasing the entire game in April/May 2014 than putting themselves through the current and future pains of the pre-release and the perception that the game had become episodic or 'broken'.

Here's why: It's basically all about accounting. I'd even call the whole thing an accounting trick, but I haven't seen their books so can't say for certain. With a timeline of pre-releasing Episode 1 in January and putting out the finished game in April/May, and the reality that the cash flow from any pre-release sales will not actually reach them in January (Steam is pretty opaque about payments, but there's at least a month's wait between a game selling and the developer getting their cut, and probably a full quarter), Double Fine has to be borrowing the money (either from an outside lender, or from other parts of the company's capital (think: other games' budgets)) to keep development on finishing the game going, even if the sales are there. The accounting trick would be if they put those sales towards their assets as soon as the sales were made (this is 'normal' for most businesses), to show on their balance sheet they weren't actually in debt (assuming sufficient sales) even though they actually were in debt and hadn't yet been paid. They are literally 'betting everything' on Broken Age; if the sales aren't there, the borrowing will likely break the company, financially.

How much are they borrowing? How soon will they have to borrow it? Depends.

The first Production Update puts the actual game budget at $2.2 million (after paying for backer rewards, fees, and putting 15% of what was left toward the documentary), so if we use that as the baseline, you add $900k from Brütal Legend sales & ~$1 million from HumbleDFBundle and get to ~$4.1 million but need $6m to finish the game; a $1.9 million deficit. Does that take into effect needing to pay 2PP for more work? Is the $6 million figure based on going to 2015 for development, or April/May 2014? We don't know. Worse, we don't know whether the $6 million budget mentioned represents ($2.2m original budget + $3.8m over budget) or ($3.4m original funding + $2.5m over budget), which is a significant difference. Either is thrown off, potentially, by adjusting down 15% to pay 2PP.

...but we can make some assumptions. GDMagazine's salary survey for 2012 salaries puts everyone but producers (who earn less) in an $80k-$105k salary range, but also puts CA salaries ~25% higher than the national average, so most of the BA team is probably earning in the $100k-$130k range. At the time the Reds Print was made (before production ramped up), we can see 18 non-2PP people working on the game, and there were at least 3-4 new people in episode 10 I didn't recognize. Lots of people only work on the game for a limited time, but with overhead this puts them in the neighborhood of a $2m/year burn rate—about $6m to get to early 2015.

So... I'm going to guess the $6m figure was before the scope was reduced & finalized, and that the 75% scope reduction would have been "of remaining, uncreated content" and without any borrowing or accounting tricks, and to get the game out this year. (I'm being very generous, here.) So if the stuff they haven't done yet to finish Act I would have taken them 13 months but they now believe they can finish in 7, and the unfinished content for Act II was expected to take another 6+ months but they now believe can be completed in 3-4 months, I think we're still looking at a 50% reduction in scope of the portion of the work they haven't touched yet. (Ouch! But Tim still thinks the story works, and I'll trust him.) On the other hand we're really only looking at a reduction in total scope from ~3 years down to ~2.5 years, or about a 16% reduction. (That doesn't sound too bad.)

If any of that is correct, the scope-reduced budget is probably closer to $5m. If that's from the originally-funded $3.4m, they're only $1.6m over budget, and almost half a million of that is because you guys wanted shirts & posters instead of just games. More likely, that's from the originally-accounted $2.2m, and they're a pretty ugly $2.8m over budget. With the $1.9m extra from BL & HDFB, they thus probably only need another $900k or so to be "in budget"—which is about five and a half months at a $2m/yr burn rate, which tells us they'll probably have to obtain up to a million dollar credit source, and start using it before the end of this year. (i.e.: Before any pre-sales on Steam can happen.) And, though Steam keeps its royalty rates pretty secret, too, it also tells us they need to sell upwards of 65k pre-release copies of BA (on top of the 90k backers) to reach that break even point.

Which brings me back around to my initial point: I think Greg was right. If you have to borrow a million dollars anyway, and possibly do accounting tricks to make the pre-release sale of Act I make any sense, you're probably better off just waiting the extra couple of months and putting out the whole game at once. Saying "we've reduced the over-ambitious scope by about 15% and extended development time to over two years, but your game is coming by May 2014" would probably have gone over better than this weird, muddled two-part release has, and you've been telling us you're "betting everything" on DFA from the first episodes. Go all in.

(Personal aside: I've enjoyed the DFA documentary & other updates (& AF) enough that I backed Massive Chalice for more of this, despite having never played a turn-based tactics game or any of the other games they've mentioned in describing it, and not having any taste for fantasy settings. It's all on my desire to support DF & Brad, and to see more of how they work. Plus: Anyone who is saying they wouldn't have backed MC if they'd known how badly DF was out of scope hasn't been reading the last several updates, or watching the last several episodes of the documentary. This isn't new to the project, guys.)

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Come to think of it, I am actually starting to feel a bit like a cheapskate, as I feel i have gotten my moneys worth with the documentary. Is there a way to *donate* money for the game at this point? (Seeing as it has been over a year since I pledged and since I feel my pledge is way less than what I am getting, why not throw another bone your way)

There is! :)

Scroll down on this page: http://doublefine.com/dfapay

Awesome, just doubled my pledge (YAY for random leftover chargebacks on your paypal account).

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I loved this episode- 2PP does an outstanding job putting this documentaries together. The part with Tim picking up his car that took more time and money to finish than what he originally thought was brilliantly fused with the rest of the story. And, as others have said- they really do deliver on their promise of showing how the sausage gets made.

I too have been frustrated seeing the budget for this game skyrocket, and it seems like there is never enough money to finish the game. And then I see Massive Chalice come out on Kickstarter with a goal of under $1 million, and in the end it didn't get much more than that. Don't we all know by now that's not enough to make a game?? I really hope Massive Chalice is successful for the part of DF that is making it. I just couldn't back it while I am still waiting on Broken Age. I think the bottom line is this- when you are self-publishing a game and you don't have a publisher telling you what to do and giving you deadlines, your imagination and budget runs wild. It's the nature of a kickstarter/self-funded game I guess, and I really can't complain much... I am enjoying watching it be made and I can't wait to play the game.

I'm ok with it being released in two parts, but I hope DF is thinking ahead. Probably 75% of the people who were going to buy this game already did- through kickstarter. I don't think sales will be through the roof with part one. And what happens after part two is released? Where's the money to work on new projects going to come from? As an accountant myself, I look at all these financial issues and just cringe. It must be so hard to run this company thinking about all these issues, and I know they don't want to let anyone go.

Anyway, just random thoughts. I am enjoying the episodes, and can't wait to play part one!

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I think mnihil hit on the crux of the issue: the backers were told they were financing a game, and this turned out not to be anywhere near the case.

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I can't believe people complain about getting a bigger game at no additional costs.

And all this bla bla about how this was not the spirit of the kickstarter and backers are not really financing this etc... I call ignorance.

When Tim said in the pitch video "Either the game will be great or it will be a spectacular failure caught on camera for everyone to see" everyone was probably laughing and not realizing what this meant. It meant that the whole development is unpredictable. And now those people start complaining because they don't remember what they agreed to.

But all negativity aside, I know this game will turn out great.

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Forget the two part release! Break out the merchandise! License out the IP to some cool swag producers for me and my kids to buy. Bridge that financing gap from consumer channels!!!

Double Fine can be more than just a game company; it SHOULD become a media company!

There's the site store, at least. Some pretty cool t-shirts, hoodies, books, posters, and prints from DF's other games on there.

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I'll wait for the full game.

Perhaps consider an abrupt cut during the cliffhanger scene for the early release of Act 1, making sure that in the final product the scene plays out as originally intended.

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Minute 8 in the episode shows some odd animation. I wonder if it's still work-in-progress.

The boy's head is looks fine when he's standing still, but becomes really big when he walks. When he stops, it seems to "pop back" to being small.

The reflection when the boy is standing still is also odd. The feet are not at the same distance from the camera, and the reflection of one of the feet looks like it's floating.

Is this the right place to report this? :)

EDIT: The head issue seems to be fixed in the 9:15 clip.

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IMHO Too many business people in this episode. Are they in charge in DF now? Give us more creatives!!!!

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At the end of the last episode, I want to see Tim get in his car, say his praises, and drive into the sunset as the credits roll and reflections of past episodes shine and glisten in the sunlight. All to inspirational techno music.

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Wonderful episode.

Unfortunate that some journalists have taken Tim's spontaneous thoughts and feelings captured on camera as part of the social contract with backers to allow us access to the entire bare-naked process, which we all understand in the full context of the development we have all now been watching for a year, and have reported these as though they were part of a public interview.

Very poor and stinky stealth journalism.

I am a very modestly upper level backer (not in the stratosphere but "let's just say I got the Tshirt and the poster") and I am perfectly content with this difficult decision.

Like a couple of other posters, I think that the team can make this work to their creative advantage. Make it a feature...

Broken Age - Coming Apart in 2014! :)

Also consider avoiding calling it Part 1 and Part 2, or Episode 1 and Episode 1. Call it Shard 1 and Shard 2, or Piece 1 and Piece 2 instead. And choose the breaking point carefully...then perhaps link this in creatively as an intro to Piece 2. Maybe some time time has passed for the characters too....as they contemplate difficult options...

I didn't like the name Broken Age before, and it is being exploited negatively at the moment on the internyet, but I love it now and see it as a gift that can be positively and creatively exploited.

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At the end of the last episode, I want to see Tim get in his car, say his praises, and drive into the sunset as the credits roll and reflections of past episodes shine and glisten in the sunlight. All to inspirational techno music.

so i made a thing...

YqBzEem.png

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I think mnihil hit on the crux of the issue: the backers were told they were financing a game, and this turned out not to be anywhere near the case.

Actually the backers are still financing the game not just the full game. So many companies on kickstarter add their own money to increase the scope. And double fine said nowhere that they wouldn't add their own funds to the project to increase the size of the game.

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I'm excited about the final release dates! As long as the vision of this game is fully meet, so be it. I'm going to play this on my Ipad, so having it being a 2-part series is not a really a big deal. Other games have done it before. January 2014 will be much anticipated!

I love you Double Fine! Smooch, & bear-hug crush to you all!

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I just couldn't NOT do this. I have no idea if anybody else has already done so. Enjoy.

n0Pe6x4.gif

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Great episode... Great decision...

I am not a fan of adventure games with episodes, but this is certainly different as you already mentioned. This is about making a point & click, Tim Schafer adventure, and playing it! So go for it... This is why we are all here to back you. Reading some of the posts here, I needed to remind myself that we are not here to act like a bunch of executives who have never developed games yet lecture about development and budgets. I always prefer a whole experience when I play a game. But I will always ALWAYS prefer a two-part game if this means Tim will not have to cut anything he doesn't want to.

I saw some posts from people in the game industry... I'm also a game designer and someone from the industry should know better than to compare an initial budget with an ongoing one. ;) So this is much much muuuuch better solution than I've heard from other developers out there.

And I always wish we have the opportunity to develop our games without cutting anything cause the deadline is already dead. :) So, I just can't wait to see Act I and I'll be waiting for the rest gladly.

Bottom line is... we are here to back you to develop a game freely... We are not pre-purchasing customers. We are backers. ;)

Love you all... :)

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Is there any way we can pay more money or buy a T-shirt or something to make sure this plan will absolutely not fail. Looking forward to a polished game.

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They could've given us a $0.3mil game but the Kickstarter blew up into a $3mil project. They could've kept all the money and still made a $0.3mil game but they won't do that. We will get our funds worth. It just so happens that this $3mil almost doubled. They raised the quality bar and the cost went with it too. WE BELIEVE IN YOU GUYS! YOU CAN DO IT!! IT'LL BE GREAT, DON'T WORRY (TOO MUCH)!!

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Is there any way we can pay more money or buy a T-shirt or something to make sure this plan will absolutely not fail. Looking forward to a polished game.

Yep! Additional contribution methods can be found here: http://www.doublefine.com/dfapay/

You can also pick up the lumberjack or Reds team posters from the DF shop for while proceeds will go towards the game :)

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Also consider avoiding calling it [...] Episode 1 and Episode 1.

I agree.

Ha! Yep I agree with myself there too. Hard to argue with the logic. :P

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Great episode. As we've seen before, it's not all rainbows and unicorns, but it makes me care all that much more about DF and Broken Age.

I completely trust you guys, so whatever you feel is necessary to maintain the integrity of your original vision and end up with the most polished game possible, do it!

And may I add, I just love the graphic style. It's not just pretty, it adds a special feel to the experience.

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My wife and I work in publishing, and my general makeup and thoughts are more towards Greg's line of thinking.

Books have moved toward episodic content, as well. Mainly because the author either needs to A.) Maximize profit or B.) Fulfill their full arc for a series that can't be fully realized without "pauses". Unless you're Stephen King, you don't put out a 1500 page standalone book.

That being said, people still give 5 Star reviews for books, even if their review reads something like "I can't believe X author left us with a cliffhanger. I am so mad. P.S. Can't wait till date for sequel/followup is released." People don't like to wait. Unfortunately, quality takes time and an investment.

If you're trying to please everyone, you will please no one.

Piracy still hasn't been brought into the conversation. If everyone who complained had actually invested in this project, you could bother worrying about your opinion.

The very interesting thing is, that many people who complain the loudest, are the ones who will download the day one torrent...and never contribute to the project positively...unless that just means that they are a permanent leecher.

Do what you need to do to realize the vision for this project.

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Wonderful video :D The footage of the game is really exciting! I'm really optimistic about the game at this point. I was SO excited to see the dailouge sheets not blurred and the explanation, though I hope the meetings and such will be unedited in a later spoiler-filled version. I think the game split is a very smart and reasonable idea. It's already done in TV series, film, books, and even games. There's nothing wrong with episodic material. It takes the project and puts it into smaller, easier goals that have a better return on it while you're working on the next.

I've read through quite a few comments and I can understand people's concern. If DF is depending on sales from "Part 1" to fund "Part 2" there is a risk the game won't be finished. But unless I'm mistaken, the kickstarter campaign did say the project could be a "failure" but it would still be documented. There's nothing wrong with only funding kickstarters that have a greater chance of success, but this entire kickstarter has been a risk but I think a risk worth taking. On the bright side, the only reasons the second part of the game wouldn't be made is (1.) the 1st part is bad (2.) Bad PR or bad Advertising. I'm not sure about the 2nd (that depends on DF and everyone's positive words)... but does anyone actually believe the game will be bad? If these guys are as talented and passionate as I believe them to be... even if the game isn't earth shattering it won't fall short to impress and should bring in the sales figures needed to continue the game. I think the most important thing for backers and developers is to learn from this experience, whether a success or a failure. Get wise, but don't let it stop you from supporting or making adventure games. That would be the real failure here.

*snip*

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Idea: So DF needs to make some money. Well, didn't they make a new, shiny game engine for making adventure games? It looks pretty sweet from the footage I saw. Couldn't they offer a license for that game engine? Maybe target indie developers or small companies? It might not bring in a lot and I haven't a clue what it would take to offer it to the public, but it might bring in bigger sales figures than what DF is currently doing. Just think about it DF.

Broken Age is based off of the open source Moai engine. I don't think they would get very far licensing an engine that isn't theirs to sell.

Anyway, great video. First one I've watched since episode 4 and I am pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the game looks so far. Also, I didn't know Tim drives a Cuda. Sweet car.

I coulda sworn I had more to comment but it left me. Oh well. Can't wait till (tentatively) January.

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They could've given us a $0.3mil game but the Kickstarter blew up into a $3mil project. They could've kept all the money and still made a $0.3mil game but they won't do that. We will get our funds worth. It just so happens that this $3mil almost doubled. They raised the quality bar and the cost went with it too. WE BELIEVE IN YOU GUYS! YOU CAN DO IT!! IT'LL BE GREAT, DON'T WORRY (TOO MUCH)!!

Exactly - the least risky thing for DoubleFine to do would have been to book a $2.7m profit and give people a $300k game. Instead they're giving us a $3m+ game and people are angry. Sigh.

Also, ITT: people who have never run a software project or a business suddenly become experts in running software projects and making difficult business decisions... (Not as bad as the "Broken Age release plan" thread. I hope it's just selection bias where people who understand that many things DoubleFine are doing are completely standard and not really big news are just refraining from commenting)

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Idea: So DF needs to make some money. Well, didn't they make a new, shiny game engine for making adventure games? It looks pretty sweet from the footage I saw. Couldn't they offer a license for that game engine? Maybe target indie developers or small companies? It might not bring in a lot and I haven't a clue what it would take to offer it to the public, but it might bring in bigger sales figures than what DF is currently doing. Just think about it DF.

Broken Age is based off of the open source Moai engine. I don't think they would get very far licensing an engine that isn't theirs to sell.

Thanks for pointing that out. Apparently I missed that point or some people somewhere were saying DF built that game engine :P

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DF didn't create the engine but they improved it a lot with lightning routines that change the character's color and even specific parts of the character. And they created an awesome tool to more freely create content in it. So even though the main engine is the same almost all the software is improved.

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