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Double Fine, Divided Age

By BloodyFanGirl03-07-2013

We've previously covered Double Fine's crowd-fund-raiser in aid of their adventure game Broken Age (which ended up raising $3.3 million dollars by the way). With so much raised over their initial goal of $400,000, one would've thought that Double Fine would be all set for this project. No, dear reader, for the course of game development never did run smooth.

Rather than ask the Kickstarter's 87,000 donors for even more money project leader Tim Schafer decided to seek another way. Yesterday Schafer sent out an open letter to all of the funding campaign's donors, explaining that Double Fine had decided to split Broken Age into 2 chapters with the first of these being made available through Steam Early Access as of January 2014. The hope is that the revenue from the first half of the game would fund the concluding portion.

Schafer admits, "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. With this shipping solution I think we're balancing the size of the game and the realities of funding it pretty well." It appears that the fact of the matter is that making a game is an extremely expensive undertaking.

If you did not receive Schafer's open letter you can read it below, in full.

"Hello, Backers of Adventure!

Those of you who have been following along in the documentary know about the design vs. money tension we've had on this project since the early days. 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.

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.

So we have been looking for ways to improve our project's efficiency while reducing scope where we could along the way. All while looking for additional funds from bundle revenue, ports, etc. But when we finished the final in-depth schedule recently it was clear that these opportunistic methods weren't going to be enough.

We looked into what it would take to finish just first half of our game -- Act 1. And the numbers showed it coming in July of next year. Not this July, but July 2014. For just the first half. The full game was looking like 2015! My jaw hit the floor.

This was a huge wake-up call for all of us. If this were true, we weren't going to have to cut the game in half, we were going to have to cut it down by 75%! What would be left? How would we even cut it down that far? Just polish up the rooms we had and ship those? Reboot the art style with a dramatically simpler look? Remove the Boy or Girl from the story? Yikes! Sad faces all around.

Would we, instead, try to find more money? You guys have been been very generous in the tip jar (thanks!) but this is a larger sum of money we were talking about. Asking a publisher for the money was out of the question because it would violate the spirit of the Kickstarter, and also, publishers. 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.

Then we had a strange idea. What if we made some modest cuts in order to finish the first half of the game by January instead of July, and then released that finished, polished half of the game on Steam Early Access? Backers would still have the option of not looking at it, of course, but those who were sick of waiting wouldn't have to wait any more. They could play the first half of the game in January!

We were always planning to release the beta on Steam, but in addition to that we now have Steam Early Access, which is a new opportunity that actually lets you charge money for pre-release content. That means we could actually sell this early access version of the game to the public at large, and use that money to fund the remaining game development. The second part of the game would come in a free update a few months down the road, closer to April-May.

So, everybody gets to play the game sooner, and we don't have to cut the game down drastically. Backers still get the whole game this way—nobody has to pay again for the second half.

And whatever date we start selling the early release, backers still have exclusive beta access before that, as promised in the Kickstarter.

I want to point out that Broken Age's schedule changes have nothing to do with the team working slowly. They have been kicking ass and the game looks, plays, and sounds amazing. It's just taking a while because I designed too much game, as I pretty much always do. But we're pulling it in, and the good news is that the game's design is now 100% done, so most of the unknowns are now gone and it's not going to get any bigger.

With this shipping solution I think we're balancing the size of the game and the realities of funding it pretty well. We are still working out the details and exact dates, but we'd love to hear your thoughts. This project has always been something we go through together and the ultimate solution needs to be something we all feel good about.

In the meantime, I'm hoping you are enjoying the documentary and like the progress you're seeing on Broken Age. I'm really exciting about how it's coming together, I can't wait for you to see more of it, and I feel good about finally having a solid plan on how to ship it!

Thanks for reading,


Comments (6)
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Posts: 3290

I expect they'll do some kind of season pass type deal. Who knows, maybe they'll even decide to spin it out into a true episodic model.

Could work

Posts: 1548

I hope they don't expect the backer to pay for the second part again?

Posts: 3290

No, not many at all. Especially not with a sum that large. But Double Fine have shown themselves to be consistently high quality. And I do greatly appreciate the frank honesty of the statement. Also their method of dealing with it. Where should would effectively hold the game to ransom, they're pretty much saying they'll do the first part, then come back to the second when they can afford it. Like I said, I think, really, in the long run it will make the game even better. Not only will they have more time to polish it, they'll have more time to expand on things, as well as making the second chapter all the more effective because the hard part will be already done. Adding to an existing model, or engine if you prefer, is always easier than building something from the ground up

Posts: 237

To be honest... i feel a bit bad about them. I didnt back Broken Age, so i have no right to say bad things... but they announced that they almost burned trough their money right after they got the money for Massive Ch. wich is a bit of a d*ck move. Since that can end up like this, having no money to finish the product. (i know both will be finished, but still, its not something we would take from many devs)

Posts: 3290

If this was coming from someone else I'd be highly suspicious. From Double Fine...I actually think this will end up being even better in the long run personally

Posts: 1548

Hahaha, I like the choice of the pic :D