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Kickstarter Drama: Conquistador, Shadowrun and Eisenwald
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 13 April 2013, 00:19:43Tags: Aterdux Entertainment; Expeditions: Conquistador; Harebrained Schemes; Kickstarter; Legends of Eisenwald; Logic Artists; Shadowrun Returns
It's been an interesting week on the Kickstarter front. Not just because of the big projects like Torment and Project Eternity, but also because some of the news that's been coming from the Codex's smaller "pet projects". Unfortunately, for those projects, it hasn't been interesting in a good way.
Logic Artists' Expeditions: Conquistador was supposed to have been released on February 28th. Three days before that date, the development team announced that the game was going to be delayed, due to unspecified "distribution complications". They also announced that they would be using that delay to implement multiplayer capabilities that had not been part of the game's original pitch. In the discussion thread of our preview of the game (which was awkwardly published on the same day as that announcement), members of the Logic Artists team admitted that the "distribution complications" involved commitments they had made to a publisher, something which was confirmed in a Kickstarter update that was published on April 4th. I quote:
Now, if you know anything about the Kickstarter crowd, then you're probably well aware that words like "multiplayer" and "publisher" are not exactly music to their ears. This news sparked a bit of a flamewar on the Codex, with a significant number of posters refusing to believe that bitComposer was not behind the decision to implement multiplayer. It did not help that both the game's Steam Greenlight entry and its website were abruptly taken down, making it appear as if Logic Artists had been suddenly taken over by a hostile entity.
A developer from Aterdux Entertainment (more on them later) who had corresponded with the Logic Artists team showed up to explain the situation from his perspective. It would appear that the Expeditions: Conquistador Greenlight campaign was going nowhere fast, and that the primary motive for the publisher deal was to ensure the game's quick admission to the Steam marketplace, which as you may know, is the only guarantee of significant revenue in today's digital distribution economy.
Greed or survival? It's ugly business all around, and Logic Artists' reputation may be permanently tarnished due to their poor handling of this affair. But still, Expeditions: Conquistador is a small game, with a small budget provided by just over 1500 backers. What if a Kickstarter game with over 36000 backers and a budget of nearly 2 million did something equally questionable?
As it happens, that's exactly what occurred just 5 days later on April 9th, when Shadowrun Returns developers Harebrained Schemes published this Kickstarter update:
Combined with the news from last month that Shadowrun Returns would lack core CRPG features such as looting and game saving(!), the impression one gets is that this project has also run out of money, forcing the developers to cut corners and make questionable compromises. Needless to say, this news did not go over well with the game's backers, as evidenced by the response to that update (now at 1000 comments and still going). "DRM" is another one of those words that one must never utter on Kickstarter.
On that same day, Aterdux Entertainment, developers of Legends of Eisenwald, published a Kickstarter update of their own. As you shall see, it would appear that they have taken the lessons of the Logic Artists incident to heart:
The rest of the update is a long and frank explanation of Aterdux's current situation. They too have run out of money, and their "producer" is a wealthy Russian businessman who is funding the game's prolonged development cycle. Despite Legends of Eisenwald having more backers and more funding than Expeditions: Conquistador, this news has been received with a far lesser degree of outrage. It definitely helps that "producer" is a less toxic word than "publisher", but the lesson is clear - communication matters! Eisenwald is apparently doing quite well on Greenlight, and hopefully we will be able to report on its admission to Steam on April 17th.
So, that's what happened on Kickstarter this week. Quite amazing really that it happened all at once. The question is, is this just the tip of the iceberg? Is it impossible for a high quality Kickstarter game with a budget of less than 3 or 4 million to successfully conclude development without the developers running out of money and being forced to make ugly compromises? Will those bigger Kickstarters eventually run out of money too? Discuss!