Indie survival sim Under the Ocean looked mighty promising when it first came to light in 2012 by way of a six-minute-long pre-alpha development trailer. And things seemed to be proceeding apace when it hit Steam Early Access in April 2013. But we haven't heard much about it since then, and last week developer Paul Hart revealed why: The project is out of money and programmer Michael Reitzenstein has quit.
Hart revealed in a message posted on Steam last week that Reitzenstein's "circumstances have changed," and that he decided to leave the project over differences in opinion about its future direction. Despite the loss and "against better judgment and out of sheer stubbornness," he said he's not giving up on the game and vowed to finish it by himself if necessary, no matter how long it takes.
In the meantime, however, the game will no longer be available for sale: He requested that it be removed from Early Access, and Valve obliged. "I think this makes the most sense as I don't want to deceive people into thinking the game is one thing when it is not," Hart wrote.
"This news will obviously come as a huge blow to everyone awaiting alpha 9, as it means what we know as alpha 9 today will have to be shelved and completely rebuilt with my (limited) programming ability," he explained. "Before you descend into nasty remarks or anything of that nature, know Mike and I have been trying for the longest time to try and get this thing out, and this has been one of the hardest posts I've had to make in my life, whatever emotion you feel for this, multiply that by a year of work for a missed goal."
Anticipating the demand for refunds, Hart said that he can't currently issue them because he doesn't have the funds. He'll be able to offer refunds if and when sales of Under the Ocean resume, but gave no indication as to when that might be.
It's an unfortunate end, perhaps temporary and perhaps not, to what appeared to be a promising game, but it's better than the alternative of simply walking away from it while leaving it for people to purchase. It also highlights, yet again, the risks of Early Access: You pays your dime and you takes your chances—and every once in awhile, you get bitten in the ass.