On 11 September 2013, the Kickstarter project Project Phoenix successfully ended, raising just over $US1 million for a game they estimated would be out in March of 2015. Last night, the people behind the project announced a bit of a delay. They're now aiming to ship the game in late 2018.
Project Phoenix, which promised to "set a new standard of excellence for the Japanese gaming industry", raised a number of red flags when it first went live. In addition to targeting a very small amount of money for game development -- their original goal was just $US100,000 -- the campaign made many lofty promises that seemed tough if not impossible to deliver. As veteran RPG designer Robert Boyd pointed out rather presciently, the warning signs were all there.
"They're trying to tease famous staff members but not actually tell us who they are. This makes them look really suspicious," Boyd wrote on the forum NeoGAF back in August of 2013. "They have basically said that most of their staff is going to work for free. With such a large (for an indie) team, so many big names, and about 2 years left to go, I'd be worried that some members would bail or need money before development is over."
As it turned out, one of those teased staff members never joined the project at all. In the original pitch, Project Phoenix said the following about their programmer:
This was supposed to be David Clark, a programmer for Moon Studios. At the time he was working on Ori and the Blind Forest, an Xbox One indie that came out in March of 2015. Project Phoenix director Hiroaki Yura says he and his team had been waiting for Clark to come aboard, but it wasn't to be.
"We were waiting for the programmer from Ori and the Blind Forest to finish his work on that project," Yura told me in an email today. "However, that got delayed by 14 months. All that time, we were being told that he'd hop over to the project, but ended up not being able to when we reached April, 2015. His name is David Clark, a good friend of mine and a godly programmer, and by the time it was April, he was required to stay on as there were continuing commitments with Moon Studio that he cannot talk to us about."
Now, they have got a new programmer, Yura says, and they're looking for more. Hence the new release schedule. "Unfortunately, as we are making this game part time, and the scope of the game has been increased a lot, and since this is the first game I'm directing, I'd really like to take time and make sure I'm delivering especially when I'm already so late."
When I asked Yura what he and his team had been doing over the past two years, he sent over the following:
- Finished most character designs
- Created base models for all creatures
- Created all asset models (char and env) required for Act 1), 2 part of 4 and 5.
- Finished most of the required animation of the game. Outstanding animations are non-essential ones like emotes at this stage.
- Finished the scenario
- Finished the game design doc
- Finished core combat mechanics except the Threat System
- Finished itemizations and tools required to create any action and play w/ stats
- Finished around 5 minutes of cinematics, created by… a super veteran animator (we're not ready to announce this till early next year)
- Wrote over 120 minutes of music - there will be more
- Basic SFX and VFX for now. The SFX is created by the dude who did the SFX to the original Street Fighter series! The man who said "Hadouken" himself! Amazing
Not too bad for a weekend job over 2 years with less than 500k in dev cost eh? That's because I've put my own money into this so we can get it out there!
For quite some time now, Kotaku has been shining a light at Kickstarter projects that raise money and then don't deliver, sometimes failing to update backers and occasionally dropping off the planet entirely. In the case of Project Phoenix, we have a game that's offering regular updates but appears to have issues of its own. If backers do get a completed video game out of this, it won't be for a very long time.
Project Phoenix is not currently offering refunds to Kickstarter backers.