Somehow, Tim Schafer’s Adventure Kickstarter Needs More Money

Somehow, Tim Schafer’s Adventure Kickstarter Needs More Money

Double Fine’s adventure game Kickstarter was one of 2012’s great success stories, bringing in over $US3 million in community funding. A year later, though, it turns out that wasn’t enough money to get the game finished.

In a lengthy and honest message to backers sent earlier today, Double Fine boss Tim Schafer explains that, basically, he designed too much game. And that for the title – now known as Broken Age – to be finished, it’s going to need more money.

Going to a publisher is out of the question, and a second Kickstarter is also written off as a bad decision, so Schafer has decided to cut the game in half and sell it on Steam.

What if we made some modest cuts in order to finish the first half of the game by January instead of July, and then released that finished, polished half of the game on Steam Early Access? Backers would still have the option of not looking at it, of course, but those who were sick of waiting wouldn’t have to wait any more. They could play the first half of the game in January!

We were always planning to release the beta on Steam, but in addition to that we now have Steam Early Access, which is a new opportunity that actually lets you charge money for pre-release content. That means we could actually sell this early access version of the game to the public at large, and use that money to fund the remaining game development. The second part of the game would come in a free update a few months down the road, closer to April-May.


  • And maybe we’ve just seen why, as much as I love them, DoubleFine have trouble with publishers…

    • Hate to say it, but I think you’re right.

      They’re an insanely talented studio and I wish ’em all the best, though.

      • Rule number 1 in freelancing is: “Stick to the budget”, followed by “Under-promise, over-deliver”. Making a game is a huge task to manage, but a bit of sensible scope planning could save a whole heap of headaches and late nights down the track. It’s a problem in the industry in general – big promises, vague budgeting.

        Still, my love for that cuddly man is unending and I eagerly await DF’s next game.

        • While this is all true, the problem is that game development is a creative endeavour. You can’t apply the same standard for development that you would use for widget-making or similar. If this was delivering business software where all the scope of the work and everything is known from the outset then you could absolutely expect to be able to plan it down to the letter, but when it’s creating art it’s much harder, you need to budget for stuff just plain not turning out well and having to be re-done a lot and stuff.

          Games run over time or over budget all the time. We just rarely have this level of insight into the development process.

          • Yep, I at least half agree with you!

            But my rules of freelancing are for creative endeavours too, like illustrations, written pieces, and game assets(animations, models etc), granted, not nearly on the same scale as a full game.

            Something that is on the same scale as a game is a movie, and even though they do go over quite a bit, the don’t seem to go over nearly as much as games do. Perhaps it’s because games are a newer industry and Hollywood has it’s shit together more, or perhaps movies are just as bad as games and I have no insight into what it’s really like there!

            EDIT: Games do run over time and budget all the time, it’s definitely not unique to Double Fine, it seems to be the industry norm in many ways!
            I just think perhaps they don’t have to.

    • Well, not just DoubleFine. It’s actually really common for developers to go past their release dates in this industry, and the most we ever hear about it usually is grumbling that we can’t play the game as soon as we’d like.

      But every time that happens, those developers had to go to their publisher and ask them to cut a cheque for the extra 1-6 months. And not a small cheque, either. One for a wage for dozens, if not hundreds, of people.

      Publishers can always say, “Nope. Release it as-is and patch it later,” or hold the dev studio in breach of contract and sue them into bankruptcy. But they do grant extensions a fair bit. I wonder what kind of things the studio has to sign away to get that extension, sometimes…

      Either way, I don’t see kickstarter backers being any more lenient than publishers in that respect.

      • I can certainly imagine some backers would become irate with this news. Though I am happy enough for Double Fine to take the time to bring the game to its full realisation.

        Besides, I’ve already been getting a return on my investment with the videos that Double Fine have been releasing about their development of the game. They’re very interesting to watch.

  • Well, if anything I hope he has learned about the possible downfall of the Kickstarter model and will be better prepared for next time. but I think this is a case of them getting overly excited about the crazy funding they got and overreaching, rather than them being inherently bad developers.

    • Good developers are not necessarily great businessmen. I don’t think this reflects on the quality of the game but the ability of Double Fine to adjust their plans to account for all the extra money.

  • I kickstarted two things last year, this and Star Citizen, and I’m still yet to receive anything except from a few generic physical items (t-shirt for this, citizen card for Star Citizen).

    I’ve learnt a valuable lesson about Kickstarter… Don’t bother. Yes I fully understand it for indie games, the ones that do get delivered because they’re made by 1-3 people… But any actual company that’s doing Kickstarter… You won’t get a return for a while.

    • And here’s me playing the alpha of Planetary Annihilation surprisingly quickly after the kickstarter for it and being incredibly happy I gave up my money for it. I would have thought it was obvious you’d have to wait a while for kickstarter stuff to come through regardless, after all it’s for getting funding to make something. Kinda follows that then it’ll take time to get an actual product, especially when the scope is something pretty huge like with Star Citizen.

      • Oh god, I’ve almost bought PA twice because of that bloody Stem early access…

        • LoL I was on that shit as soon as I heard about the kickstarter. Even though it’s only in early alpha at the moment it’s still really fun to play, and the glitches you get to see can be pretty funny too 😛

    • Star Citizen was one of the very rare few games I caved in, and helped kick start. How ever many years it takes, I have to remain hopeful.

    • The valuable lesson is that kickstarter isn’t a shop, it’s a way to support someone who has an idea. In theory you shouldn’t even expect “a return”, that’s just an added bonus.

      • In theory you shouldn’t even expect “a return”
        I completely disagree with that statement… You’re giving them money and they’re agreeing to deliver a product. If you get no return, you’ve been scammed.

        I knew going into Kickstarter it wasn’t a shop… I guess my point was more of the nature I did them so long ago and didn’t follow them, that it’s almost like a year or two later I get an email telling me I have a game I forgot I purchased

        • Actually – you’re ‘donating’ money to the development. Morally they owe you some kind of product, but you have technically given them money without strings attached – that is the danger of this model.

    • Kickstarter is not a product website you buy from. When you back something it has to be made first, usually from scratch. Have you been following all the updates from Chris Roberts about Star Citizen? Production is well on its way, although probably no where from being finished BUT at least they are keeping everyone in the loop.

      Did you back the project thinking it was going to be finished in a 6 months? You’re an idiot if you did.

      • No, I understood the game needed to be made, and I understood the expected release date of 2015.

        It’s just that after I backed it, I just got side-tracked with life (planning a wedding)… The project dropped of my radar, same with the Broken Age kickstarter… I just neglected the progress. I also thought their ETA was within one year, they must have changed that at some stage after their record breaking funding. It’s just gotten to the point where one day I’ll wind up with an email in my inbox “Download the release version of Broken Age/Star Citizen now”… By the time I actually get the product I’ll have long forgotten about the money I actually spent.

  • I think they have learned their lesson – although massive chalice sounds pretty big in scope considering it got about 1/4 of the funding. What on earth would they have produced if they only got 400k?? If i wasn’t so interested in the development process and hence the documentaries i think i would be more disappointed. I do think however, that they should wear the cost of over-run. I’ve never worked for a company that asked clients for more money because we decided to create something that was out of budget and scope. I have worked on projects that intentionally went over and above what was required, but that was a business decision based on wanting the work to be a showcase piece and the budget from the client wouldn’t allow it. I’ve also worked on projects where we grossly under budgeted in the proposal, but again we couldn’t just turn around to the client after the contracts were signed and say we made a mistake and needed more money… well i guess we could have but it doesn’t look good! Having said all that, I love Double Fine, think they’re amazingly talented and hope that this all works out and they have in fact learned their lesson.

    • They’re not asking the backers for more money though. As the article says they’re releasing an early build in Jan to get some money.

      • Oh yeh I understand that – they did end up asking for more money at an earlier point tho, i guess i didn’t make it very well but my point was really regarding their mistake in letting scope get out of control – it wasn’t a conscious decision to go above and beyond.

    • I should add the disclaimer that i have been guilty of many instances of scope creep… creatives do that 😛

  • Surely with Tim’s history he has a tidy nest egg he can dip into to make up the rest and recoup it after it’s inevitable success. I’m finding alot of these things now seem to be creators not willing to take a financial risk but expect all the rewards, it’s not like we make a share of the profits like a real financial backer would. I’m not saying this is always the case, I contribute to campaigns but things like this and the Veronica Mars movie, for example, feel a bit wrong.

    • Double Fine have had an awful lot of critical success, but not quite the same in sales (everyone loves Psychonauts, but it bombed commercially on release). His big sales back in the day were for LucasArts, and even then would be considered peanuts compared to game sales today.

      • I understand that but what I’m saying is that he’s still a successful dude that probably has a couple of bucks.

        • Define “a couple of bucks”.

          AS I highly doubt he makes enough to fund enough of any project. Plus he has to fead himself (and family), pay bills, deal with taxes and etc. So no matter how much he earns heneed that to survive.

    • I’d be surprised if that were the case. Running a company is crazy expensive, and any money you get from a publisher is spent directly on production costs. I’m sure he’s received royalty cheques for previous titles (he’s said so in interviews), but I doubt they would be sufficient to keep a company like DF going.

      Schafer’s never owned and sold a company for millions like Molyneux did, and yet even he had to go to kickstarter.

      • That one always had me suspicious, in no way do I believe Molyneux couldn’t fund a game himself…

  • I think because it’s Tim and he wants this game to be all it can be, then I can understand how it could blow out – the game is under a lot of pressure because of the high standard we gamers expect, and the standard I’m sure Tim wants to deliver. I often wondered if it was at all possible with their initial asking figure.

    Other dev’s have gone back to Kickstarter to ask for more money, but I suppose it’s admirable that he doesn’t want to. I’m not sure how well the cave did, but I have a feeling it didn’t do that well, and maybe that’s why he wants to make sure it is super good?

  • This is why I stopped backing games and started waiting until they were actually released. Given what I’ve seen over time (and ironically via my own experience as a developer), Kickstarting a game seems like it should only be reserved for smaller projects and those that need the final push over the line because any project that goes for too long has a higher risk of either dying or blowing out even more. Hopefully they can finish it though because this kind of news may have a cooling effect that makes it harder for the smaller studios to get funding.

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