Double Fine has run in to trouble with its crowdfunded adventure game Broken Age, which has gone over budget and past its projected completion date.
The project, codenamed ‘Reds’, launched on Kickstarter last year and raised over $3.3 million for an “old-school adventure game”.
The record-breaking success of the campaign spawned a crowdfunding craze that lasted most of last year, and still has many small and independent studios – including Double Fine – taking to Kickstarter again and again for fan-funding.
But some of these projects have started to run into trouble, and Broken Age is no exception.
In a letter to backers, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer revealed that if Broken Age were to continue as currently designed, it wouldn’t be finished until July of next year.
“Even though we received much more money from our Kickstarter than we, or anybody anticipated, that didn’t stop me from getting excited and designing a game so big that it would need even more money,” admitted Schafer.
“I think I just have an idea in my head about how big an adventure game should be, so it’s hard for me to design one that’s much smaller than Grim Fandango or Full Throttle. There’s just a certain amount of scope needed to create a complex puzzle space and to develop a real story. At least with my brain, there is.”
Schafer told fans that rather than gutting the current game design and art, Broken Age will be split into two halves, the first of which will be released in January 2014.
The idea is that fans will get their hands on the game sooner and help fund the completion of the games from sales of the first episode.
“Asking a publisher for the money was out of the question because it would violate the spirit of the Kickstarter, and also, publishers,” Schafer explained.
“Going back to Kickstarter for it seemed wrong. Clearly, any overages were going to have to be paid by Double Fine, with our own money from the sales of our other games. That actually makes a lot of sense and we feel good about it. We have been making more money since we began self-publishing our games, but unfortunately it still would not be enough.”
The plan always involved and early beta for backers, but now Double Fine plans to include a Steam Early Access for the game.
Backers would get free access through Steam Keys and the public would be able to buy access to the first half of the game as pre-release content, with the rest of the game following as a free update a few months later.
“So, everybody gets to play the game sooner, and we don’t have to cut the game down drastically,” said Schafer.
“Backers still get the whole game this way—nobody has to pay again for the second half.”
But not all the backers are pleased with the news.
While some praise the openness of the project and point out that they paid to be part of the real development process, others argue that since the project originally sought only $400,000 and raised $3.3 million, the fact Double Fine is over-budget is negligent.
The decision to take the game to Kickstarter before beginning design work was definitely a risk, but since the goal of the project was to give fans a look at “how the sausage is made”, there’s quite a lot to be said for either argument.
It’s worth pointing out that $100,000 of the original budget was for a documentary film and that this portion of the budget has probably grown with the project, but this could be used by either side of the argument.
What is certain is that with crowdfunding under fire, trouble for the Kickstarter that kickstarted it all will add more fuel to the fires of controversy.