The Trine series of fantasy platformers is beloved, especially on Steam. Trine 3, however, has longtime fans furious.
In addition to basic mechanical quibbles, many Trine fans think the latest game — which recently emerged from Early Access — feels unfinished, with a gaping hole of non-ending that only magic (or DLC) could patch up. In a recent Steam post, Frozenbyte VP Joel Kinnunen explained that this isn't a scheme to fleece players out of their hard-earned doubloons. Rather, Kinnunen feels like his company bit off more than they could chew, but they still released the best game they could.
"Back in late 2012, we set out to do Trine 3 in full 3D — bigger, badder, better. We took a big risk with the 3D gameplay implementation — it was to be a massive improvement over the previous games in several areas. We have always been ambitious and this time our ambition may have gotten the better of us."
"Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power has ended up costing nearly triple that of Trine 2 — over 5.4 million USD. We have squeezed everything we could into the game, there's nothing left on the table. We initially had a much longer story written and more levels planned, but to create what we envisioned, it would have taken at least triple the money, probably up to 15 million USD, which we didn't realise until too late, and which we didn't have."
"So we did not intentionally make the game 'short' as many have said in order to make money off of future DLC or whatever. We tried to make something too ambitious, and it ended up financially impossible. What we sold on Early Access was the 'realistic' vision and what we promised is what we have delivered, in our opinion."
So, in short, Frozenbyte hasn't suddenly transformed into the sort of shady developer that, in some cases, Steam users are right to be wary of. Instead, they ran up against a problem that has become increasingly common as small developers have gained the tools and resources necessary to tackle projects of greater scale: too much, too soon. Frozenbyte realises they might have backed themselves into a corner. Kinnunen wrote:
"As for the cliffhanger ending and DLC — there are no plans for a DLC. Continuation of the story is a different matter however, but we have released everything we had and everything we aimed to release since the beginning of the Early Access. The future of the series is now in question, as the feedback, user reviews and poor media attention has caught us by surprise."
However, they plan to support the game on the technical side of things (bug fixes, support, etc).
Players were, predictably, saddened by this news. It's not like they hated Trine 3; they just wanted more of it. It strikes me as a bit odd that Frozenbyte would reply to that criticism by putting the series on deep freeze forever. It could be a financially motivated decision, though — in which case this is all just very unfortunate.
Regardless, it's a difficult situation. "Feels unfinished" is a criticism that's frequently lobbed at modern games, especially ones that spent their diaper days on Steam Early Access. Frozenbyte's honesty about the situation is refreshing, especially in light of the fact that some Steam developers choose to say nothing at all or, worse, moderate their Steam forums in ways that squelch negative feedback.
It's never fun to watch a beloved series fall on hard times, though. And, explanations aside, Trine 3's brevity and ending (or lack thereof) still have players feeling like they got an unfinished game. That's no good. Here's hoping Trine's developers turn things around.