Broken Age - formerly just 'Double Fine Adventure' - counts among the biggest Kickstarter successes. Arguably it's what
kickstarted the crowdfunding service as a legitimate avenue for small teams and their wild, inventive, or, (more often than not) nostalgic ideas. It's also the
third most funded game
on the service, raising over $3.3 million. Despite all this, Double Fine have revealed that they're running out of the money needed to continue development of their adventure game 'revival'.
"Even though we received much more money from our Kickstarter than we, or anybody anticipated," writes project lead and Double Fine head Tim Schafer, "that didn't stop me from getting excited and designing a game so big that it would need even more money." He made the announcement in a
backer only update
to the game's Kickstarter page. You can find a full copy of the post
Schafer reveals that their projections showed the first half of the game arriving in June 2014, with the full thing not finished until 2015. "This was a huge wake-up call for all of us," he continues. "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%!"
Instead, Double Fine are returning to crowdfunding. "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!"
The rest of the game would be delivered as a free update "closer to April-May". Schafer says that Kickstarter backers would still get beta access to this first half earlier than the planned Steam release date of January, as per Double Fine's Kickstarter promise. As Schafer notes, "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."
Even with some form of solution in place, it's a weird situation for what was once seen as a runaway success to be in. Intended or not, Broken Age has become something of a torchbearer for the Kickstarter trend, and this move is only going to fuel the growing backlash. If a team can raise over 800% of their original goal, and still not guarantee a game, to what extent can a backer rely on
project to provide a return on the money they've pledged.
The other side of the argument is that yes, Schafer got excited, and has created a game that's bigger and more lavish than anything originally intended. If the ultimate game placed in backers hands is better overall, does it matter if Double Fine uses every money-raising method now available to developers?
Part of the problem stems from the nature of a project's backers - and how their role in the equation is constantly in flux. My advice to anyone looking at Kickstarter, or any pre-development crowdfunding, is to see it as it is - a
towards a team you'd like to see create a game that they're passionate about. If you back a project simply to secure a game based on early promises, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Pre-ordering a game is already a risky and almost always inadvisable gamble, let along pre-ordering before it - or any of the realities of development - exist.