Double Fine’s Double Cross?

In the spring of 2012, Tim Schafer’s game development company, Double Fine Productions, made history with its outrageously successful Kickstarter campaign. While he’d only hoped to raise $400,000 to create a classic point-and-click adventure game, the swell of support not only reached the goal within 8 hours, but exploded well beyond all expectations. In the end, Double Fine received $3.3 million in donations from eager backers.

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With games like Psychonauts and The Secret of Monkey Island on his resume, who wouldn’t throw this man money?

However, it’s for this reason that public opinion is beginning to shift against Schafer, who said in an announcement to his project backers that the game was over-budget and behind schedule. This has come as a shock to much of the internets, considering that Double Fine received over eight times the projected budget. Some critics cite this example as a cautionary tale against crowdfunding, and recommend that investors think carefully before forking over their money to projects.

The question on everyone’s mind is, how can this situation have even come about in the first place? Double Fine received more than enough capital to move forward with their project, so how can it suddenly be out of scope? Has Tim Schafer betrayed us?

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Just because Double Fine has found themselves out of scope does not mean that they don’t know how to plan a project. They’re out of scope because they’re not using the original plans for the game. Tim Schafer has stated that he felt it necessary to deliver a game worthy of that $3.3 million, and in his zeal, he “designed too much game.” It’s also important to keep in mind that this project is ground-breaking, and while there’s a general primer of game design to follow, they’re still forging a brand new path in the industry. Bumps in the road are to be expected with new territory.

Some see this as a simple case of irresponsibility, but one should also consider the alternative. Imagine what would have happened if Double Fine took that $3.3 million and made the same $4ook game they’d originally planned on, and simply pocketed the rest of the money. It’d be difficult not to feel cheated as a backer in that situation. Even if Double Fine had stuck to the original plan and donated the rest to a charity, it still could have come back to bite them in the form of speculation of what the game could’ve been had they made use of the extra capital. (Plus I know there’s at least one asshole out there that’d have moaned that if they’d wanted to donate to charity, they’d have done so instead of backing the project.) Expanding the game was a risk, but it was a risk that would ultimately benefit everyone involved.

And it’s still going to benefit everyone; it’s just going to require a bit more patience than expected. In order to address the problem, Tim Schafer has decided to release the game in two parts, with the option of buying early access to the first part. The current plan is to use the funds raised from the early access sales to cover the rest of the budget needed for the second half of the game. This will allow Double Fine to continue avoiding a publisher, thus protecting the integrity of the game (as publishers often make un-negotiable demands) and ultimately delivering a finer product to gamers.

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Perhaps it’s now fitting that the logo to the original game had two heads.

In the end, no one is saying that the project is cancelled; it’s just being delayed. While some of the content is being cut here and there, it’s expanded content that’s getting trimmed, so the gamers still ultimately have more game than they would’ve had with the original budget anyway. Double Fine’s misadventure will stand as an example to future crowd-funded games, and as with every other industry, the process will get smoothed out over time.

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Double Fine Productions, Broken Age, and all related media are the property of Tim Schafer.  …  Well, I suppose Broken Age technically belongs to all of the Kickstarter backers, too.

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About Leedzie

Leda "Leedzie" Clark is a writer and game designer with a sharp eye for detail and a kooky sense of humor. She's been a nerd as long as she can remember, and always seems to notice the wrong thing first in any given situation.

Posted on July 10, 2013, in Developers, Feature Articles, Indie Games, Journalism, News, Video Games and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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