Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

The creators of the PC game Towns have given up on development, choosing to leave the game unfinished for good — even though it's been on sale for the past 18 months and had sold over 200,000 copies as of last year.

The folks behind Towns have no plans to give out refunds to anyone who purchased the city-building game, which has faced development issues for over a year now.

It's yet another cautionary tale for anyone who's considering putting money into a game that's not quite complete. Towns launched on PC in November of 2012 as part of the first batch of games on Steam Greenlight, and even then there were some red flags. Towns was an ambitious undertaking, a game that promised to combine ideas from SimCity, Dungeon Keeper, Dwarf Fortress, and even Diablo, but not all of those ideas had been implemented when it went live.

"Towns is currently in a stable and fully playable state, seeing constant updates and additions of new and exciting features with each coming build," the creators wrote then.

Still, people voted for the game on Greenlight, and purchased it when it came out on Steam for $US15, despite terrible reviews calling Towns buggy and unfinished. "Unless you want to buy an unfinished game and are willing to bite your fingernails off of frustration, don't buy the game," one reviewer wrote in March.

Towns was released before Valve launched the Steam Early Access program, which allows developers to sell unfinished games in "alpha" or "beta" stages with the promise that they will be completed eventually. Unlike those Early Access games, Towns launched with no indication that it was an unfinished product, which has led to reviewers slamming the game on Steam and elsewhere.

Today, development on Towns has officially come to a halt. Lead developer Xavi Canal gave up in February, citing burnout, and handed over the reigns to another programmer, Florian "Moebius" Frankenberger, who called it quits today, saying he wasn't making enough money off Towns to be able to live.

"I'm really sorry," Frankenberger wrote. "I'm quite new to indie game dev and I couldn't really see that the game sales were declining that rapidly. I guess if I had more experience I would have seen it coming..."

Frankenberger went on to talk about a potential sequel — yes, sequel! — writing that they could implement all of their original ideas for Towns in this new form. "Xavi and I were talking about a possible Towns 2," he wrote. "At the moment this is just in an idea stage and we can't really say if he, I or eventually Ben have the time to create a Towns 2. As faithful fans of Towns we would of course reward you in some way, when/if the new game is released."

As expected, many fans are not pleased about this.

Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

And on Steam, people have been accusing the people behind Towns of scamming gamers out of their money:

Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

Towns is still on sale for $US15. As always, be careful what you buy.


    shit happens, your investing in a project with these things and people need to know that not all investments pay off, some fail and some succeed.
    But 200,000 copies @ $15 a pop is alot of money, Word of warning for people investing into kickstarter / project stuff, watch out for the money making scams. Not everyone is in it for the glory of making a 'good game'

      But it wasn't being sold as an investment, it was being sold as a finished game.

        This is the primary difference between Kickstarter and Early Access. Early Access means "the game WILL be finished, but we're letting you buy it and play it early so we can make some money in the meantime".

        In this case, the dev doesn't see why he should bother finishing the game now that he has the money. This is a risk with pre-purchasing games, but in the case of a traditional preorder you'd get your money back. In this case, I don't know if that's feasible because our purchase got us... something.

        If steam opens this for for a refund like they did with that other game they pulled this week, I think I'll apply. Very disappointing.

      This was sold without making use of Steam's Early Access program. Right before the practice was really starting to take off and gain awareness, but not before Early Access existed - so it SHOULD have made us of it, but didn't.

      Towns was sold as the completed package, with refunds rejected on the basis of a deeply-buried comment by the developer on the forums that the game was still in beta.

      (Edit: I see Jason said in the article that it was before Early Access existed, but I'm 90% certain this is NOT accurate. I remember arguing on the game's release that it should have been submitted as Early Access/beta, similar to another couple games that had listed themselves as Early Access. Now I need to go home and trawl through the forums for the refund threads and hope they weren't deleted.)

      Last edited 08/05/14 12:46 pm

        Maybe not on Steam but I'm 99% sure it was on Desura as part of the "Alpha" section (that was created in response to Project Zomboid) - and the reason I say that is because I was browsing the Alpha section at the time to see what other cool games like PZ I could find, and I considered Towns, thought it looked cool but ultimately didn't purchase.

        I may be wrong though, because memory is such a subjective thing.

        Edit: It's no longer listed on Desura as Alpha, but going through newsposts it certainly was at SOME point, since it was part of the Indie Royale Alpha bundle.

        Last edited 08/05/14 1:01 pm

      I just want to note that you're not investing with Kickstarter and early access projects (Unless stated otherwise). You are helping fund their project.

      I agreed totally that shiz happens. It is something that people need to understand before handing over money. It is an awesome feeling helping get a project off the ground by giving them some money but unfortunately some just can't complete it for you for whatever reason.

    This is reason never pre purchase, beta unless free or this new starter programs chances are of being screwed is high, I hope steams deals with this types of exploitations.

    Sounds like the poor dev was conned as well, he should run as far as he can and change his handle to avoid being overly associated with this scam in future.

    It's a travesty that it got this far, the game should have been pulled from the store in the first week when it was clearly unfinished.

      It sounds like instead of that he's actually going to try Towns 2. So, take everyone's money and run, use the development from the original to put up a good early access version of the 'sequel' (ie: fixed version) and make people pay for it again to play what SHOULD have been the completed original/dupe suckers into paying again and don't finish it again.

    I feel this will spark much more caution in buyers of Early Access/Greenlight games. I constantly read forums of games I might be interested in nowadays to find that a good number share a similar situation to Towns. Developers can up and vanish without a word to leave an unfinished game to rot because there isn't an enforced standard.

    Heck, even games from major companies can do it. Godus apparently was left in the dust for 6 months and the devs didn't say a word on the forums. People were getting worried until suddenly they appeared again like nothing ever happened.

    I think this should be considered as fraud, the people who bought the game did on the pretense that it was going to be finished. Either there should be some sort of guarantee that early access games will get finished or they should get rid of the whole process of being able to buy them on Steam. (I'm sure someone with more legal knowledge than me will be able to point out that this is not actual fraud but, you know, it should be.

    Why not open source it? Chuck it up on GitHub or BitBucket or wherever, let other devs work on it. Structurally, the game/engine did a lot of things right, abandoning it seems like such a waste.

    I have an all too large list (as in, even 1 is bad) of purchasing regrets in my Steam Library and this is one of them. As always, it's buyer beware and I really can't blame anyone but myself for buying (or buying into in the case of Kickstarter) a game I knew could get dropped or changed entirely. Suffice to say, I really have no interest in a Towns 2 unless they do something incredibly magical or remove the section of my memory related to the first game.
    [As an aside, the posting too quickly error is getting quite annoying...]

    One of the huge problems I have with Steam's review system is that it prevents abuse by only allowing you to review games that you own.

    However, this means that savvy gamers who do their research are not able to warn less-savvy 'casual gamer' friends and relatives on their lists by tagging warnings to games like WarZ, Towns, and Colonial Marines without taking one for the team and buying the piece of shit anyway.

    Open-slather reviewing of non-owned games would be utter madness, a recipe for disaster, but some sort of middle-ground to automatically warn people in your friends list would be incredibly useful. As it is, I've just had to open up the list and send offline messages to people who I suspected might get tricked by WarZ's re-branding, or the bullshot promo videos for Aliens.

    I actually know of a game that is currently in Steam Greenlight that was (is?) getting quite high rankings that is a complete scam.

    The "development team" is actually just one guy, who has created multiple accounts on his official forums to appear to be the real deal. He uses inclusive language to make it seem like there is more than just one person involved.

    He has aboslutely no game development experience, all the "screenshots" of his game on Steam Greenlight are actually images from a 3D modelling website called Turbosquid.

    He has a history of being a con artist, and was kicked out of multiple communities for making false claims about his military service.

    Recently he has claimed on his "official game forums" that he will be putting the game on kickstarter to raise money for the development. Luckily I think people will be able to take legal action against him if that goes ahead, because no game will actually be released.

    Here is the game: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=223019708

    Here is the link to Turbosquid: http://www.turbosquid.com/3d-models/police-officer-3d-model/710785

    A bit of searching will also turn up all the other pictures, including the vehicle and dog, as being images lifted from Turbosquid. Yes, he may have purchased the models. Though doubtful for someone who is bankrupt after taking out two mortgages and then trying to sue the NAB when he couldnt pay them off. (you can find more info on that on his website)

    The bloke running this scam is an Australian who also professes to be studying both law and game design, who claims to be ex-special forces, an actor, a film producer, a director and a creative director of game design. He did produce a documentary though.
    I would give a link to his self authored Wikipedia page where he makes these absurd claims to give himself credibility, but it seems to have finally been taken down after three seperate attempts by Wikipedia moderators to delete the page.

    I'l instead provide a link to the (third) deletion page on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Matt_Norman_(3rd_nomination)

    Am I the only one who really enjoyed Towns?

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