Author Topic: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.  (Read 11191 times)

akeley

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Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« on: September 15, 2013, 11:29:04 AM »
As some of you surely have heard already, David Hagar, the developer of Cult: Awakening Of The Old Ones (open-world RL)  has announced hes no longer working on it.

Thatd be sad news and all...but hey,  games do get canceled, stuff happens. What makes this situation more spicy though is the fact that a year ago he raised 34K on Kickstarter to fund it - nearly 7 times over the original 5K goal. Ouch!

Its not a huge amount of money and also I dont suppose a deliberate fraud on the behalf of the dev - but still, its a poignant little story when you look at the whole Kickstarter phenomena. Raises quite a few questions - for example, what the hell were you thinking mate or how are you gonna refund it? (he said he will). Also the claim that in the end he only got 14K out of 35K pledged due to some "taxes, fees, and payments to contractors" is sort of dubious - taxes I can understand, but the latter surely counts as development cost?

On the grander scale I think it highlights one of the major flaws in the whole Kickstarter operation - the stretch goals lunacy. I was never a fan of it, since the beginning. So your game is uber-popular and the money is pouring in? Great news! Should you add new features? Hmmm...maybe...in moderation... but perhaps itd be better just to concentrate on what was promised in the first place? Especially as these stretch goal estimates seem often pulled out of a hat - so the whole game costs 500K to make, but if you get another 250K youll add a map editor? (which youre already using?)...or another city or character or what have you? Eh, bit rich this. (And dont even start me on the madness that is Star Citizen. New goal for 20 mil: planetary FPS combat. ROTFL +WTFITS)

Dont get me wrong guys, Id love to see more features in, say, Wasteland 2 - but to be honest Id rather have them complete the game in some sort of promised time frame (another thing that gets a free pass on Kickstarter)

Overall  it sure is a shame, Cult definitely had potential. On the other hand this story could - and should - serve as a reality check to other people jumping onto the crowdfunding bandwagon.

Krice

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2013, 12:08:32 PM »

It was from a guy who had never released a game? Or was it? I mean when you give money to someone make absolute sure he knows his stuff and can do what he is saying. And of course, be careful when someone is talking about a roguelike. They are notoriously difficult to make!

getter77

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2013, 12:11:13 PM »
Yes, the entire "Empyrea" story is troubling though I hope something actually emerges from the ashes of him releasing the source once he actually figures out how that's going to go.  There are many who are extra suspicious of the Novel writing bit in conjunction with the lot of this given the timing/an update or so back's allusion to it in general, and I'm pretty sure quite a good bit of the reckoned "tax" issue can/would be counted as a written off business expense especially considering the non-enormous totals here...but yeah---it is quite a mess that I hope doesn't snowball onto other Roguelike KS projects that ARE doing it right catching any lashing out as well as yet another unfortunate example of a Bad Way to go about crowdfunding projects.

The concept had potential, and has more visuals and such to go alongside it and an extremely rough pre-Alpha world generator dealie than historical Talkie Projects---more importantly, had it worked out relatively OK, it could've been a good springboard for future somewhat exotic projects to look back at that and have at least that one point of reference that it can work out going unorthodox.
Brian Emre Jeffears
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Z

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2013, 05:41:00 PM »
Well, I would expect this...

I still believe that crowdfunding is the best way of funding art known to me. But you need to trust the dev. If they have already created something great in the past, and the new project is not 5x larger than that, then you can probably trust them. It is still possible that they fail, but then they lose their credibility forever (or until they regain their face in some other way), or you could count your money as a gratitude for the first project. It is the same as in other spheres of life, don't trust a vendor/employee/love interest who makes unbacked promises. Hopefully eventually the funders will learn this and fund only reputable projects.

getter77

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2013, 06:00:23 PM »
Even the lack of an existing reputation could've been mitigated be sheer force of being transparent and vocal in communicating regularly at the least, maybe to the point of frequently, with all the backers as opposed to literally vanishing for months at a time at the drop of a hat.  A sense of earnestness is key for most crowdfunding endeavors---without it you are stacking the deck against your project needlessly.  Any number of these people who are most likely to try to do something or other with the source as backers now after the fact would've been in a far better place had they just been approached months ago when the various trouble spots first started cropping up that destroyed the dev momentum.
Brian Emre Jeffears
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Quendus

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2013, 07:06:08 PM »
None of the events in this project's post-funding history surprised me.

The project's goals weren't impossible, but they were impractical for all but the most talented of single-developer teams (By which I mean Tarn), and implausible for a developer without a history of completing games. I wasn't sure if python (the project's language of choice) had the processing power to handle the demands that the theoretical finished product would place on it, but we probably won't find out. The performance gains of PyPy might mitigate those potential problems.

On the grander scale I think it highlights one of the major flaws in the whole Kickstarter operation - the stretch goals lunacy. I was never a fan of it, since the beginning. So your game is uber-popular and the money is pouring in? Great news! Should you add new features? Hmmm...maybe...in moderation... but perhaps itd be better just to concentrate on what was promised in the first place? Especially as these stretch goal estimates seem often pulled out of a hat - so the whole game costs 500K to make, but if you get another 250K youll add a map editor? (which youre already using?)...or another city or character or what have you? Eh, bit rich this. (And dont even start me on the madness that is Star Citizen. New goal for 20 mil: planetary FPS combat. ROTFL +WTFITS)

I don't think the stretch goals - the ones that were funded - were the problem in this project. A tileset (and alterations to display code), a usable API for modders, a toolchain that compiles spoilers through latex into pdf.
The biggest programming challenges in the project IMO would have been in the core concept - not just procedural civilisations in procedural worlds (which Ultima Ratio Regum is managing OK), but procedural mythology, dialogue, storylines, lexicons, gods, politics, characters' personal histories, etc. Some of these have been done before and have papers available describing their methods, others have not been done to a standard usable in a game, let alone combined in the same package.

The game design itself also seemed problematic - How would crafting on the scale of single items and building a house scale up to equipping an army or building a castle? There's no hint of the interface that would enable that, and the only games I'm aware of with similar capabilities are Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft - both of which would be bad models for a castle-building interface.

That's all theory. In practice, as far as I can tell from the blog posts, he got bogged down fixing the display code. But I think that even if there weren't any problems with display code, the underdesign and overambition would have led to the same result in a similar timeframe.

Maybe Ultima Ratio Regum will prove me wrong. I'm following that project with interest, and Mark seems very competent (having achieved several of CultRL's goals without funding, putting a lot of thought into each component).

Samildanach

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2013, 08:46:30 PM »
On the grander scale I think it highlights one of the major flaws in the whole Kickstarter operation - the stretch goals lunacy. I was never a fan of it, since the beginning. So your game is uber-popular and the money is pouring in? Great news! Should you add new features? Hmmm...maybe...in moderation... but perhaps it`d be better just to concentrate on what was promised in the first place?
I forget who said this recently (might even have been Darren Grey) but when you suddenly have 500k, people will expect to see a 500k game. You can no longer offer them the 50k game that you originally planned because they'll feel you've wasted the money or just pocketed it. One thing I'd like to see more of on Kickstarter is people just capping donations. I don't know if that's even possible but it makes so much sense. If you have possible stretch goals in mind from the outset that's fine, but if you don't then please just stop accepting more money. I'd rather they just say "Ok, we've got everything we need, pledges are now closed" instead of thinking up half-baked additional features that are too ambitious to actually implement.

Also, I agree on the "payments to contractors" and all that. Those are development costs. That's the sort of thing that he was raising money for, surely?

guest509

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2013, 08:53:35 PM »
I'm liking URR. When the developer first started on about it I was, well, very much in the 'yeah right' category. I figured we'd see a world building engine and then nothing.

But he's still trucking. It's great.

zasvid

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2013, 09:11:26 PM »
I forget who said this recently (might even have been Darren Grey) but when you suddenly have 500k, people will expect to see a 500k game. You can no longer offer them the 50k game that you originally planned because they'll feel you've wasted the money or just pocketed it.

Well, you could give them the original game embellished a bit for 100k and declare that further money will go full a sequel/expansion, improved by the experience of making the first one. A stretch goal that doesn't ruin the stated timeframe of delivering the goods! How amazing!
It probably does bring some other problems into the fold. Like "unspent money gets taxed away".

Paul Jeffries

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2013, 10:34:24 PM »
This doesn't really come as a huge surprise to me - his goals always seemed a bit unrealistic for the money he was asking for.

I agree that stretch goals can be problematic, especially as a lot of them don't seem to be very well thought-out, but I think the main problem with Kickstarter both in this case and more generally is that it encourages you to pitch a specific design and then stick to it.  If this were either a hobby project or a more traditionally funded one then the logical thing to do would be to revise the design scope downwards to a more realistic level once it became apparent you were in way over your head.  Once you've gone out in public and said 'give me money for a game with X, Y and Z!' I imagine there's much greater pressure not to do that, even if a game with just X would still be pretty good.  Personally I also find fixing a design too early and losing the freedom to take things in whatever direction I feel like can be a real de-motivator for me, so I can see how that might have added to his loss of interest.

Darren Grey

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2013, 02:29:25 AM »
Kickstarter should be for the last 20% of a game, not for the first 80%. Unfortunately in this case even 10% of such a scoped project would be difficult to achieve.

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2013, 05:18:11 PM »
I haven't followed this all that closely, but what strikes me is that Kickstarter doesn't make projects fail, it just makes project failures VISIBLE.
External funding or no, it seems like a lot of developers want to just do head-down on a project and grind away at int until it's "done", this is a recipe for failure in project development in general, much less something as complex and highly integrated as a game.

A Kickstarted project is a perfect candidate for "release early, release often", both before and after funding.  A prototype that people can try out is the best imaginable way to prove that there's something to the project, and regular releases showing progress maintain transparency, elicit feedback, and blunt disappointment over missed deadlines (60% of a project on time (with a promise of continuing progress) is FAR better IMO than 100% of a project 60% past its deadline, or worse never.).  Additionally, you *need* to be familiar with the outline of your project to make a remotely credible prediction of how much work implementing it is going to be.

Regarding Kickstarter encouraging unrealistic goals, don't make them, the onus isn't on Kickstarter, it's on the project.  It's quite difficult, but you need to under-promise, and then work your butt off over-delivering.  If your under-promised goal isn't good enough to get the interest needed for a successful campaign, maybe you need to rethink demand, or your priorities, but the last thing you should do is aim at breaking even, there should be a HUGE amount of space between your absolute best case scenario and your stated plans, because everything will not go the way you planned.

Paul Jeffries

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Re: Cult: AOTOO development canceled.
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2013, 07:56:08 PM »
Semi-relevant: The DwarfCorp guys have a post mortem of their own kickstarter up on their blog which makes interesting reading.  They seem to have put a lot of thought and effort into doing things right, but it still seems to have been a bit of a bumpy ride.