Giant Bomb News

240 Comments

Double Fine’s Broken Age Being Split in Half

There’s too much game and not enough money (yet).

Broken Age is well into development, but Double Fine Productions has hit a snag. The game’s scope is bigger than its budget allows for. In a letter to backers that’s leaked out, studio founder and designer Tim Schafer is proposing the game be split in half.

“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,” said Scahfer. “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.”

Double Fine is responsible for putting crowdfunding service Kickstarter on the map for video games, raising over $3 million for a new adventure game. It’s easy to forget the studio only asked for $400,000 originally, but the response was enormous, and it raised well over that amount during its funding run.

When the studio looked at the likely schedule for the game it wanted to build, the first half of the game wouldn’t be done until July 2014--more than a year from now. The second half wouldn’t be finished until well into 2015. The Kickstarter money wouldn’t last that long, and so unless the game’s gutted from top to bottom, Schafer’s team needs more money. The question is how. Another Kickstarter wouldn't work, nor a publisher.

Right now, Schafer is proposing some “modest” cuts are made to the first half of the game, and it’s released in January, instead of July. While backers would receive a first look, that half of the game would go on sale through Steam Early Access, so other people could have a look at it--and pay for it.

“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,” said Schafer. “The second part of the game would come in a free update a few months down the road, closer to April-May.”

“I want to point out that Broken Age’s schedule changes have nothing to do with the team working slowly,” he continued. “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.”

It should be noted that development hiccups, delays, and added funding are a regular part of the development process--it’s just never made public until way after the fact, if ever. I’m curious how people respond to this, given that it exposes the ugly, changing, messy, and unexpected ways games are made today.

Here's the full note:

A Note from Tim

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,

Tim

Patrick Klepek on Google+
251 Comments
Posted by buft

second part is a free update, thats fine, splitting it up into chapters isn't the worst thing in the world, with adventure games you play in chunks anyway and it worked well in keeping me interested in the walking dead,

Posted by machinerebel

I'm glad they didn't just run to a publisher, and I think this is really the best case scenario given the situation. Granted, the project should've been better managed, but it's not like game development is an exact science.

Edited by Toxeia

I trust you Schafer.

And Patrick, you should change your passwords. All these stories are being uploaded from a different IP! Oh no!

Also, was this story uploaded in two parts or did I just click on the link mid-gestation?

Posted by BaconGames

I heard something about this on twitter and I was uneasy until Tim basically said, "hey, we're releasing it on Steam Early-Access to pay for the rest" which is totally fine by me. As long as people get what they paid for as backers but they can do what they need to do to make their game, I'm happy.

Posted by crusader8463

/joke Already several threads on this. Please search before posting. Mods could you please lock this one. /endjoke

Posted by Nicked

This seems like an OK thing to do, but, to me as an outside consumer, speaks volumes about game budgeting. They got way more money than they said they needed and while it's my understanding that the scope of the project increased, they haven't kept production in check.

I'm not trying to criticize Double Fine specifically, I just think this situation might be indicative of problems industry-wide.

Edited by DrDarkStryfe

This industry has a severe problem with its lack of transparency. Tim has bucked that trend when he started the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter, and has been nothing but forthcoming about the title's development.

The fact that he came out and flat out says he needs more money is honestly something that needs to be applauded, not vilified.

Posted by TDot

Hey, if I eventually get the vision Tim wanted to make, I don't care if it's split up. I'll most likely wait until the second part is out however.

Edited by FuriousJodo

I'm fine with what Tim proposes as a solution. They tried to use all of the money that was given to them and overshot, I don't see this as an issue, they aren't ripping off the original backers and are able to deliver the final product (in two pars) that they want to. As long as I am not losing anything as a Backer, I don't really care. I asked for the game, and if I get the game eventually then I'm fine with it.

Edited by CornBREDX

I trust Tim Schafer but I cannot say I am not disappointed.

Some people have raised some good points about this- they only asked for $400k originally. What would've happened if that's all they got?

It's seems like they misbudgeted time and money on this game, and while I'm totally behind Double Fine, and they haven't lost my trust or anything crazy, I am still disappointed. They should have known better and budgeted to better prepare for this. Other kickstarters have raised less and are already coming out. Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded got only $655k and managed to release the game they offered on their kickstarter- an updated, HD-ified, Leisure Suit Larry in the land of the lounge lizards game by Al Lowe and Josh Mandel.

I find this disappointing.

Maybe I should have mentioned this on the backer web page, but I don't want to get Double Fine down, or seem like a troll. I am just really disappointed.

Posted by Tidel

Honestly, this bugs me.

I don't know if that's rational. I gave over my measly bit of cash on the promise of a game that has yet to happen, and while I completely understand and support making the best game you can, I don't think I'm ever going to do it with my money again. I bought a promise and was delivered delays and excuses and another KS from the same company, begging after money because of goodwill.

For me, for the future, I'll hope that great, interesting games are still backed by interested parties, but I will only pay for something I get. This kind of scope creep might make for a better game in the long run, but it makes me feel like I've been taken for a fool. And that they are so glib and confident about it rubs me the wrong way.

Again. I think I'm just having an emotional reaction. I paid for a promise and I feel like it was broken. In the long run it's all good, I guess. But FUCK YOU TIM SCHAFER AND YOUR DOUBLE-FINE HOUSE OF LIES!

Posted by KingSalo

hm... would have been nice to know before the massive chalice kickstarter....

Posted by bkbroiler

I am fine with this. I guess I'm kind of surprised with the reaction this has gotten some places (mainly reddit). A lot of people are pissed they're not getting a tiny 400,000 dollar adventure game and they can't play it RIGHT NOW! Maybe I came into this with a different attitude, but it doesn't bother me at all. At least they are being open about it. I'm kind of more interested in watching the documentary and supporting Double Fine than playing the game, really.

Posted by TechDemoTREX

Everyone loves Double Fine but isn't an integral part of making Kickstarter work knowing your limits? It's a damn strange place to end up after going way over the initial asking sum, even if there is a perfectly rational explanation for it. They really need to deliver on these games because they sure are using a lot of good will right now.

Edited by cthomer5000

It boggles the mind that a game that received 10x the funding it originally asked for (I realize the scope of the project changed), is now finding itself 6 million dollars under budget (15 times what they asked for).

They spell out that they've already 'found' 2 million through the Brutal Legend PC port and the Humble Bundle they did... but this is all starting to feel a bit risky. They're effectively taking their first 4 million in profits in advance just in order to be able to finish this game itself. It is starting to seem incredibly unlikely that this game makes them much money overall. I realize overruns are the norm... but the budget has gotten pretty damn out of hand if they're talking about this game ending up at 10 million dollars.

I also wonder what happens if the early access sales through Stream are lousy? Then what? It appears that they are just gambling that the early sales will get them the money to finish the game.

@patrickklepek I would really love to hear some in-depth thoughts on this topic. I know the crew had repeatedly stated they didn't back the project on the bombcast, but I wish at least one of you was seeing the documentary videos. It's been eye-opening in a few different ways. Also, since you *just* mentioned wanting to do a panel (or some sort of content) regarding video game budgets... this seems like a story worth digging deeper on.

Edited by Miketorreza

"Remember when you gave us a shitload of money? Well we planned poorly and now we need more money! It's still cool if we just give you the first half of the game right? We'll figure out the second half later..."

Fuck that.

Posted by TheMasterDS

Weird developments. Is "Early Access" code for "Anyone can buy it and put video of it up online?" Because I'm far more more interested in what happens for the Quick Look than what happens for the actual game. Aside from Walking Dead, which trades in traditional puzzles for emotional puzzles, I don't find Adventure Games fun to play. Fun to watch, sure, but not fun to play. Honestly I think the best thing you could do with an adventure game is put in a button that plays the game for you. Otherwise I'm better off just finding a let's play than buying the product.

I feel like I backed the right horse though. Go Massive Challice! You're not treading old ground but finding new ground! "Genealogical" is going to become a word used to describe more games than you and Rogue Legacy in the future I bet!

Posted by OllyOxenFree

Jesus Christ this all just seems like a headache.

Edited by Kevin_Cogneto

I really don't like how every news outlet is characterizing this as "Broken Age to be split in half." That implies that each half would be sold separately, which isn't the case at all.

As for the idea that Tim Schafer has somehow mismanaged our money, all I know is that the creative process is inherently unpredictable, and in my experience the only way to remove the element of unpredictability from a creative work is to remove the creativity as well. Which is how you end up with a thousand identical Call of Duty and Gears of War knockoffs.

Tim's a creative guy, naturally this sort of thing is going to come with the territory. We're just not accustomed to this sort of recalibration happening out in the open like this.

Edited by rebgav

As a backer of the project and a Double Fine fan I am fine with them taking as long as they need to finish and ship the game.

As a rational, thinking human being my brain is screaming "is this a five, six, seven million dollar 2D point-and-click adventure game now? You mad, irresponsible, beautiful bastards."

Posted by WJist

This honestly makes me kinda glad I haven't backed any games on Kickstarter, but have purchased some KS-funded games after their main release. As easy as it is to say "Paid by fans, made for fans", there is a real risk the dev may squander everything before shipping a product.

I wonder if this will lead to DF being the first thing that pushes KS off a cliff. Big stakes.

Posted by LikeaSsur

This is starting to get a bit gross. First they ask for less than half of a million dollars, and get rocketed to $3 million. Then they talk how most of Brutal Legend's PC sales go toward funding it, Humble Bundle sales, and the like. THEN they start another Kickstarter for a completely different game, which of course, skyrockets past it's target goal again.

Only THEN do they pull a complete reversal and say "Hey, guys, that first game we were going to make for $400k, but instead got $3 million? Yeah, it's not enough." Regardless of the reason, that's not cool. I know Brad Muir and Tim Schafer and the rest are all great, respectable guys, but they should know when to reign it in.

If Broken Age is the adventure game to end all adventure games, I'll look past this, because that's what Tim is making it out to be, but he's just putting more pressure on himself.

Edited by MrOldboy

@machinerebel said:

I'm glad they didn't just run to a publisher, and I think this is really the best case scenario given the situation. Granted, the project should've been better managed, but it's not like game development is an exact science.

It might be cynical to say, but I sort of wish they did go to a publisher. This could end up a really big mess, not just for Double Fine, but other developers who want to go a similar route. The game should have been managed better like you said, which does not require exact science, just some restraint and foresight light any project. At this point this game has to deliver, the expectations are so high now.

Also, when is this game supposed to be out? Mid 2014? Maybe everyone will have forgotten about all this by the time it ships.

Posted by Sputty

All this kickstarter stuff is turning into a real shitshow

Posted by MildMolasses

I would find this much less bothersome if they hadn't just closed a second kickstarter. A little convinient how this statement comes out after the fact. Somehow I doubt they would have been very successful the second time if people knew that they mismanaged the first. Maybe all this transparency and needing to ask the public for funding just shows us that Tim isn't very good at running a business

Posted by metalsnakezero

I think some developers who are having problems in budgeting should look to other studios like From software and Atlus who work with a small staff and small budget but get out great games that makes a profit for them. Still best of luck to them on finishing this game.

Posted by Giant_Bomb

I would choose a grand scale point click adventure over some smaller game any day, but the communication from DF hasn't been very clear all the way through development. Granted, this was one of the first big kickstarters I heard about, I still think I'd back games where the scope and production costs are well detailed in the future. I'm still waiting for a handful of games, but obviously I'm never been privy to the game development process so perhaps I have unrealistic expectations.

It's still been a while since the last 2Player Prod. video though...

Edited by Deathpooky

The solution they've come up with isn't terrible, and I realize there are cost overruns and unexpected turns in making games. But god damn, they got over seven times the money they asked for. PLUS they dumped even more money onto the game from other unrelated sources like PC Brutal Legend and Humble Bundle. Even assuming they expanded the scope and had stretch goals, you make the game work for the money you're given, not expand to the max and burn through your now much more massive amount.

And, coincidentally, they're putting this out there right after they just finished another Kickstarter for a different game. I have more trust in Doublefine than I do most developers, but it still looks really bad. You have to wonder if people would have backed Massive Chalice had this come out a month ago. It really makes you question their budgeting or why they couldn't get publisher support previously. And worried that they're putting everything on a game they admitted was from a niche genre and couldn't find support.

Edited by Homelessbird

This industry has a severe problem with its lack of transparency. Tim has bucked that trend when he started the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter, and has been nothing but forthcoming about the title's development.

The fact that he came out and flat out says he needs more money is honestly something that needs to be applauded, not vilified.

This.

Posted by nantukoprime

From what I know of project management, this makes my head hurt.

I understand how a project can get that way, but it always really sucks when that happens.

Posted by Draxyle

Thanks for not sensationalizing this, Scoops. A lot of articles are really biting into it the whole event without really understanding what this all means.

For those that backed, this means pretty much nothing except for the fact that the first half of the game will be released early. In the end, we're (likely) getting a game that's a hell of a lot better than what they proposed at the 400k level.

Budget miscalculations happen at all levels of videogame development, and Tim's being completely open and honest about the whole thing. And at the end of the day, the game is still coming out despite expanding beyond the kickstarter funds. He could have just chopped the game up into pieces to meet funding, but he's intent on making the game we all want him to make. This is a good thing for everyone involved (assuming the game doesn't come out as a broken mess, but as a backer, I'm pretty confident it will be perfectly fine).

Posted by Ares42

Just another reason to stay away from Kickstarter.

Online
Posted by 617_jbug

It would be cool to see what the original plans were if they only had reached their initial goal.

Posted by noizy

@nantukoprime: Splitting projects into multiple release happens a lot where I work.

Posted by JasonR86

lol

Edited by octa

I don't see how anyone can be OK with this. They went to Kickstarter because classic adventure games weren't marketable. Now they are banking on early access sales of this non-marketable genre to finish it? Huh?

It's really too bad that this was the project that popularized Kickstarter for games. They didn't even pitch a game! It was a nebulous idea of a classic adventure game. On top of that they were saying the documentary crew really spawned the idea; it wasn't like some dream game they wish they could always make. I saw red flags immediately.

They need to release something, so I don't envy them. At the same time, this just smacks of mismanagement and blatant disregard for what 3.3 million dollars means to people.

Posted by Tan

@tidel said:

Honestly, this bugs me.

I don't know if that's rational. I gave over my measly bit of cash on the promise of a game that has yet to happen, and while I completely understand and support making the best game you can, I don't think I'm ever going to do it with my money again. I bought a promise and was delivered delays and excuses and another KS from the same company, begging after money because of goodwill.

For me, for the future, I'll hope that great, interesting games are still backed by interested parties, but I will only pay for something I get. This kind of scope creep might make for a better game in the long run, but it makes me feel like I've been taken for a fool. And that they are so glib and confident about it rubs me the wrong way.

Again. I think I'm just having an emotional reaction. I paid for a promise and I feel like it was broken. In the long run it's all good, I guess. But FUCK YOU TIM SCHAFER AND YOUR DOUBLE-FINE HOUSE OF LIES!

Totally not a bad way to think about it. Kickstarter is a risk. It's just putting trust into a stranger to make something worth the money you invested.

Except for this part: "another KS from the same company, begging after money because of goodwill."

They're not doing another kickstarter, nor begging for more money.

Edited by EnduranceFun

Wow, what a joke. In the end I guess it doesn't matter that much to backers as you get the game, you get the documentary and you simply wait a longer time. I've been pretty disappointed by Double Fine recently, not a fan of Brad Muir caving to the LBGT crowd for his Medieval generational warfare game. What do you mean gays can't marry each other in a time with high infanticide rates and no safe sex? Are you a bigot?

But I'm just going on at that point. If nothing else the documentary made backing this worth a small amount of money.

From a business standpoint, this only backs up everything big publishers ever said about adventure games and Tim Schafer. I can see why they would not bank on any DF game when they are this bad at managing resources and money, plus the game itself doesn't seem anywhere near as inspired as something like Grim Fandango. It's got a lot of charm to it but it's really just "generic fantasy adventure game: choose your color edition." Compare that to the land of the dead, there's no contest.

Posted by Mandrewgora

I'm out!

Posted by Mastertarvin

" I feel good about finally having a solid plan on how to ship it!"

Should have had a solid plan all along, I backed this and could tell from the backer videos there was no way they could finish this game. They made poor decisions every step of the way and made me really question if Tim has what it takes to run a successful game studio. Maybe Kotick was right all those years ago.

Posted by Eribuster

<Iwata-mode> Please understand that video game development is a wild and unwieldy process. We apologize for the delay.</Iwata-mode>

Best of luck to Double Fine! They must be giving their all to complete the game they promised. The finish line is in sight!

Posted by ErinIsADrunk

I think is pretty normal for game development and I don't have a huge problem with it. In fact I kind of expected this and it is why I stay away from game Kickstarters that are asking for money without any of the work already completed.

It does suck for people who backed the game were looking forward to the release of the game this year, but it isn't like they aren't going to get the game at all. I trust the dudes at Double Fine to deliver. You have to know what you are getting into especially if you are the one who is investing in the development.

Sucks that people who for some reason hate crowdfunding are using this to call the whole thing a scam.

Posted by KoolAid

The original pitch was very clear:

"What's going to happen? No one can say for sure. But here's my promise to you: Either the game will be great, or it will be a spectacular failure, caught on camera for everyone to see. Either way, you win. What could go wrong?"

Tim said they will try to make an adventure game with $300,000 dollars and make a documentary of the process. I have no doubt that we are going to get a game out of this and they are more then delivering on the documentary angle. They are being extremely transparent and doing everything they said they would.

They are trying to make something wonderful here. And they are trying to make a beautiful game first, not a product first. They are our champions and we should applaud them.

Also, Kickstarter is not a store. You are not pre-ordering a game. You are funding someone trying to make a game. Every project under the sun deals with this stuff. We should take this as an education. The lesson is NOT that Double Fine sucks at making games.

Posted by jarowdowsky

Fantastic it's coming early, roll on January :)

Posted by slowbird

since everyone is so upset about it we should just cancel all videogames forever.

Edited by GalacticPunt

I'm but a simple $15 backer, I've seen this situation develop in the documentaries, and I'm honestly a little disappointed. This is not Tim Schafer's first rodeo. He supposedly knew how far $300,000 would have gone. When he got the pleasant surprise of $3 million he should have known how to budget for that. He had multiple people at his studio explaining to him, early on, how long development should go and how big the staff should be.

And here we are, obscenely over budget and behind schedule. The documentary process he asked for seems to be showing Tim's fans... why big, evil publishers are so hesitant to invest in him again. Head-in-the-clouds creative types are fine, but in our modern times you should balance that with some business acumen. The video game industry could use some more Robert Rodriguez types. People who can knock out something entertaining quickly and cheaply, then move on to the next project. Rodriguiz is no Oscar winner, but he can do whatever the fuck he wants, because he always comes in under budget and turns a profit for his investors.

Part of this complaint is indeed projection about myself. I should have turned in a final script to a comic last week. But one guy with a day job is waiting on me, while Tim has had a salaried staff and $3.4 million in angel investors wait on him being indecisive about the design doc, the script, even the damn game title...

I hold faith that Torment: Tides of Numenera will launch when the developers projected it to launch. It will have a thousand bugs, but it will be a complete game, delivered to its backers within a reasonable time frame!

Edited by Tidel

@tan said:

@tidel said:

Honestly, this bugs me.

I don't know if that's rational. I gave over my measly bit of cash on the promise of a game that has yet to happen, and while I completely understand and support making the best game you can, I don't think I'm ever going to do it with my money again. I bought a promise and was delivered delays and excuses and another KS from the same company, begging after money because of goodwill.

For me, for the future, I'll hope that great, interesting games are still backed by interested parties, but I will only pay for something I get. This kind of scope creep might make for a better game in the long run, but it makes me feel like I've been taken for a fool. And that they are so glib and confident about it rubs me the wrong way.

Again. I think I'm just having an emotional reaction. I paid for a promise and I feel like it was broken. In the long run it's all good, I guess. But FUCK YOU TIM SCHAFER AND YOUR DOUBLE-FINE HOUSE OF LIES!

Totally not a bad way to think about it. Kickstarter is a risk. It's just putting trust into a stranger to make something worth the money you invested.

Except for this part: "another KS from the same company, begging after money because of goodwill."

They're not doing another kickstarter, nor begging for more money.

Oh, I meant the one for Massive Chalice.

And 'begging' is just me being shirty about the whole thing.

Bottom line, I wish them the best, I'll get the game I backed when it happens, and I'll know the score going forward. Broken Age was my first exposure to Kickstarter, and if nothing else I value what it has taught me about scope creep in the games industry. It actually makes a lot of the bullshit in the mainstream, AAA space make a lot more sense.

Posted by w1n5t0n

@galacticpunt: I too am a backer and for $15 I have already received about a 10 hour documentary. For me personally It was already worth the investment.

Posted by Parsnip

I'm alright with this development. Nothing has really changed from my point of view, I still backed a game that would have never been made in any other situation, and I believe they will still deliver that game.