Kotaku has an unhappy report on the state of Breeding Season, a “Harvest Moon meets Hentai” sex game that, according to PledgeSociety, was pulling in more than $42,000 per month on Patreon. Despite that whopping-big figure, the whole thing has been canceled because of a dispute with former Art Director Vladimir Sandler.
A Breeding Season blog post written by project creator "Harista-PipeBomb"—HBomb for short—says Sandler, who also goes by the names S-Purple and Shwig, was given an “incredibly generous contract” when he began work on the game that granted him, among other things, full rights to the artwork he created for it. The contract was made before Breeding Season became a big success, but a deal's a deal, and its ties continue to bind. But last month, Sandler effectively halted work; then earlier this week a new project called Cloud Meadow, “bearing huge similarities to Breeding Season,” including art created by Sandler, appeared on Patreon.
“S had gone entirely behind our backs to spend an entire month's worth of work (for which he collected over $9,000 of patron money, by the way) working on a new project that he planned to abandon Breeding Season entirely for,” HBomb's blog post states. “Not even once had he brought up to me the notion of him leaving the project or faced me directly with his desire for different leadership. Instead he took the most cowardly possible option, to the point of even fooling Subtank [another artist] into believing the work he was doing was for Breeding Season's benefit, and straight-up swindled us.”
The real problem, though, is that Sandler allegedly walked away with half of the studio's savings—as he was allowed to do under the terms of the contract—and demanded that all assets he created for Breeding Season be removed from it. He's also rejected HBomb's offer to purchase those assets, even though, according to the post, he won't be able to do anything with them.
“This leaves Breeding Season half stripped of assets. Effectively, this would scrap the entire project as it currently stands, forcing us to start over completely from square one,” the post says. “There is absolutely no viable reason for him to do this except to be an emotionally-stunted man-child destroying someone else's sandcastle. He can't even reasonably repurpose any of these assets for use in another project because anything that is either based on my design or was touched by any of the other artists or animators also jointly belongs to me. And there is no way in fucking hell I am letting him get away with what he did on any level.”
There's clearly some personal animosity at play here, and it does sound like a pretty crappy thing to do. But Sandler said in a blog post of his own that he didn't do this “out of spite, nor greed, but through legitimate disagreements with HBomb’s method of management.” He acknowledged that the new Cloud Meadow project is his, but said he created it to “save what I could of the Breeding Season Project, and deliver on the spirit of the promises made by [Breeding Season].”
“The way the actual Breeding Season game development was going, it would never have actually been finished, even if myself and the other artists worked 24/7,” he wrote. “I had intended to not take the money owed to me for the month I worked on this from Breeding Season’s accounts, and simply announce this at the same time as I announced my resignation so that people would see that while Breeding Season might finally be dead, they would still have a valid option for funding a game about banging monstergirls/boys and running a monster farm.”
The Breeding Season Wiki offers a sliver of hope that it could be revived, saying the project is canceled “until further notice,” but HBomb's message is entirely unambiguous. “That's it, this is the end. None of the other members want to continue on the project after this,” he wrote. “Breeding Season is over, we're never even making it out of alpha and every promise we ever fucking made is invalidated by the fact I put too much trust in someone else to do the right thing. Hell, not even the right thing; I just trusted him to do the not fucking insane thing.”
It seems certain that a lot more dirty laundry will be aired before the matter is concluded, but as Kotaku points out, the real losers here are Breeding Season supporters. There's clearly a demand for games like this—it's the second-highest-earning project on PledgeSociety—and people who are into it really don't have many other options. You're not going to see this kind of game on Steam, after all. And for the broader audience of gamers, it's yet another cautionary tale about the risks of crowdfunding: If an indie game pulling in $42,000 a month can't make it to the finish line, then clearly there are no guarantees to be found anywhere.
Even though the project is canceled, a Breeding Season alpha build remains available for download, if you'd like to get a closer look at what it's all about.