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Double Fine needs more money to complete Broken Age

Double Fine needs more money to complete Broken Age

Wed 03 Jul 2013 8:07am GMT / 4:07am EDT / 1:07am PDT
DevelopmentFinancial

Tim Schafer explains he "designed too much game"

Despite a Kickstarter campaign that raised $3.3 million, Double Fine has written to its backers to explain that it requires additional funds to complete the Double Fine Adventure, Broken Age, and that the game will now be released in two parts.

"You guys have been been very generous in the tip jar (thanks!) but this is a larger sum of money we were talking about," said Tim Schafer in a letter to backers, published in full on Gamasutra.

"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."

Instead Double Fine will split the game into two parts, and release the first half through the Steam Early Access programme, using the resulting revenue to finish the second half. Without this solution, the full game would not have been finished until 2015.

"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."

Schafer was at pains to point out the development team were not responsible for the company's inability to finish the game, but that he had just "designed too much game." He also promised backers of the original Kickstarter campaign would still get exclusive beta access to Broken Age, ahead of the Steam Early Access users.

The Double Fine Adventure was the first game focused Kickstarter to attract mass media attention, and raised $3,336,371 from 87,142 in March 2012.

43 Comments

James Boulton Tools & Tech Coder, Slightly Mad Studios

136 172 1.3
Popular Comment
As an investor in this project, I'm not impressed. You know what your budget is, you know how long this budget will last given your team burn rate, so it's not difficult to plan accordingly.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Ben Board Senior Product Lead, Boss Alien Ltd

8 20 2.5
Popular Comment
Good grief! Yet again DF demonstrate that their lovability exceeds their viability. Publishers say their idea won't be profitable (again)? Don't listen, iterate, learn - just find enough people in the street who think it looks cool. Can't keep it within even a famously exaggerated budget? Don't reduce, focus, improve - just bat your eyelids at those people again. At a stroke they are making the publishers' point, making a mockery of Kickstarter, and making themselves look foolish.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
I wonder how many AAA-budget titles are like this. Developer vision exceeds the development budget, and the publisher faces a decision - cough up more, release a sub-standard product, or kill the project entirely. It would explain why multi-million selling titles don't manage to break-even until long after their release.

Double-Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine - A microcosm of the industry's problem with money?

Posted:A year ago

#3

Seb Downie Producer, Guerrilla Games

28 27 1.0
Ever heard of cutting features/levels or leaving them for post-patching or DLC? "Designed too much game" HA!

Posted:A year ago

#4

James Prendergast Research Chemist

741 439 0.6
On the one hand I'm happy that the game is going to be of a decent depth.

As for people saying "why not cut features": If you look at the email you'll see that Tim specifically mentions that they had a few options - severely cut back content in the game making it much shorter OR cut back a little amount of content use Double Fine's cash reserves and release on Steam early access to generate more funds to cover the whole project, releasing the second half of the game within a few months (I think it was July 2014).

Seems like they made the best choice in a bad situation to me. Everyone who already backed the game gets it for free anyway and they can get more revenue from new purchasers who were maybe going to buy the game at release sooner rather than later.

@ Seb
"Ever heard of cutting features/levels or leaving them for post-patching or DLC? "

If you look at the email you'll see that this is effectively what they're doing, only in a slightly different manner.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 3rd July 2013 1:06pm

Posted:A year ago

#5

Phil Elliott Project Leader, Collective; Head of Community (Live Team), Square Enix

163 29 0.2
Popular Comment
It does make you wonder what they were expecting to create if they hadn't exceeded their original $400,000 target. Still, it'll be interesting to see how folks react to this.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Phil Elliott on 3rd July 2013 4:27pm

Posted:A year ago

#6

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
To be honest, I backed it and I'm indifferent. The crux of what Double Fine are doing is that they're cannibalising future sales of the finished product by using Early Access buyers to complete the project. This says a lot about how they need a tighter "editorial" reign at the beginning, and casts doubt on how much profit the game will generate. From a business point-of-view, it's a bad image to project. From a consumer point-of-view, as long as the game is good, what does it matter?

Posted:A year ago

#7
I reckon they spent it all on pizzas and cupcakes

Posted:A year ago

#8

Richard Westmoreland Game Desginer, Exient Ltd

138 90 0.7
Popular Comment
This is completely unacceptable. They knew how much money they had to make the project and yet Tim decided to design a game which exceeds the budget, somehow thinking this is something to be proud of. It isn't. Game design isn't just about pie in the sky ideas without a thought to money or technology. it's about designing around budget and constraints to make sure that you deliver the absolute best product that you can do. This means designing a game which fits within the budget, the technology and within the given development time.

There's no wonder publishers wouldn't touch him if he refuses to design within these constraints. He'll find it's a lot harder to BS the general public into giving him more money when things go balls up.

Posted:A year ago

#9
Well - KS was a relatively free goldmine...till the public wises up. So i guess every developer (and people with former big names) and their granny went for it

Posted:A year ago

#10

Dan Wood Visual Effects Artist

37 62 1.7
Having watched the backer documentaries, it seems they've seen this coming for a quite a while, and they've been trying for a long time to find a compromise that will neither bankrupt them nor significantly impact on the quality of the game.

Perhaps it isn't the best business strategy, but isn't that the whole point of the exercise? The complaints about big publishers aren't that they have poor business models, it's that they compromise their games to suit their business models. Double Fine are compromising their business model to suit their game, in the hope that the long-term gains outweigh the short term losses, and they can continue to make great games.

Tim's games have formed quite the tradition of being slow-burning sleeper hits that sell moderate but consistent numbers for years after release. That's not going to help them at the moment, but if they can clear this hurdle without taking too much of a beating, I think they should end up in the clear.

The biggest problem I think may come from if there are knee-jerk reactions perceiving this as a wasteful use of the budget, which doesn't seem a concern to me. It seems the design was slightly over-ambitious, but I'd much sooner they only made cuts they benefitted the experience rather than making them purely for the sake of staying within budget.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Andy Gahan Managing Director, The Pixel Bullies

8 12 1.5
Popular Comment
Easy money is the easiest to spend.

Posted:A year ago

#12

David M Lopez Studying Game Art and Design, Art Institute of California - San Diego

8 2 0.3
I feel as though these types of projects have to be released early to make any money in the first place. Kickstarter is just to get you started once you create something that is good enough to release do so and then update it until it's finished. No one can foresee what issues you will have while making a game but to rely on kickstarter alone was naive. Biting off more then you can chew is too but artists should never be in charge of money, we are terrible at managing it. lol

Edited 2 times. Last edit by David M Lopez on 3rd July 2013 6:31pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions

72 291 4.0
I'm actually glad they're not compromising their ideas and quality by cutting anything.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,218 1,052 0.9
I still think Kickstarter is amazing, I would consider using it for game funding one day, but extreme caution and good old restraint should still be exercised...

It is a lot of money they raised for an indie title that had a known scope, so I'm surprised they're running out of over $3 Million. Yes, projects can become more expensive but this is an order of magnitude more expensive than they said.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games

363 208 0.6
""You guys have been been very generous in the tip jar"
Tip Jar? That jar must be pretty huge to fit all that money people put in there!

Sorry but this is bad planning. No matter who you are, you design for your budget. This project is way over funded. There is absolutely no reason for this to happen.

Design and deliver on the budget! Make the best game possible with that money. That is a basic requirement for all game producers/directors in the real world. No matter what happens, this is bad management at its best!

That is why publishers avoid these projects, and that is how they don't make profit on these games! Publisher's wouldn't pick it up, DF were willing to do this with a fraction of the money they received. Sad to see this happening with common people's hard earned cash!

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 3rd July 2013 11:04pm

Posted:A year ago

#16

Tom Keresztes Programmer

700 354 0.5
I will wait to see how good that first half is before decrying him. If it looks good, i am going to buy it (not backed the project yet).
They asked for $400k got $3.3m and now thats for half the game... If it's amazing all will be forgotten.. If it's mediocre everyone will crucify them...
Welcome to the Games Industry.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Tom Keresztes Programmer

700 354 0.5
This is completely unacceptable. They knew how much money they had to make the project and yet Tim decided to design a game which exceeds the budget, somehow thinking this is something to be proud of. It isn't. Game design isn't just about pie in the sky ideas without a thought to money or technology. it's about designing around budget and constraints to make sure that you deliver the absolute best product that you can do. This means designing a game which fits within the budget, the technology and within the given development time.
You never missed a milestone before ?

Posted:A year ago

#18

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,196 1,176 0.5
I'd imagine that gathering up some oddball Double Fine swag and auctioning it off would raise some funds towards... something.

Posted:A year ago

#19

Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media

68 131 1.9
From a backer perspective, I don't feel ripped off at all, same as Morville. Yes it's my hard earned cash, but it's also my freely given cash, nobody put me to it. In my case I made a bet on DF's and Schafer's talent over nothing more than a mission statement. If this is how he feels the game should be, then I say go ahead, make the game you really want to make, that's what I gave you my cash for and I expect no less. I know a couple other backers who would agree. Don't know how most of them will react though.

As for casting doubts on the whole Kickstarter system because of this or the final outcome of this project, I think that is going way too far.

Posted:A year ago

#20
They asked for 400K to work this project and got 8x more, and now are running out of money? Just think, it could fund 8 other indie games! or have a really nice blow out in vegas.

Posted:A year ago

#21

Diego Santos Lećo Creative Director, GameBlox Interactive

25 26 1.0
As a game designer and backer, I'm completely fine with it. If you going to just "spit a game" using backer money (as a contract job), what is the point? And part of the deal, the insider documentary, is more than delivered. Publishers would just hide beyond PR stunts (journalists just LOVE those).

I guess you would all prefer: "PublishX today announced that Broke Age is going episodic. The company just released a statement in which details how the next great adventure from the masterfull Tim Schafer is going to be greately expanded and could not fit a single game.

Tim Schafer is very happy with the opportunity: "I always wanted to create a series of stories in the same world, so I believe that fans will be pleased with part 1 of our story". The first part is going to released X month, through the inovative Steam Early Access. The company states that this could be a test bed to future projects, and to "tighten ties with the audience". Its not clear yet wether PublishX will be successful with the new model, but seeing how Walking Dead was able to thrive, we have high hopes for the title.

Also announced today, is the inclusion of a completely new character and a lot of information, that kind of lessen the impact of the announcement of the episodic model, since it has been some time we haven't heard about the project. The screens show a very inovative art style, and gorgeous 2D "sprites" fill the screen. A teaser trailer with live action actors also set the tone for the game, and (blah blah I ate that all up, PublishX promisses, blah, blah)."

Yeah.

Posted:A year ago

#22

Shane Sweeney Academic

417 441 1.1
80% of all Professional Software projects (not just games) go over time and over budget. Normally this is a b2b reality and consumers are buffered from it.

It will be interesting to see how the average consumers will handle 80% delays and if it will hurt the brands of the developers since they are now interfacing with the public and the fail safe excuse of publishers getting in the way is now gone.

Even with a critically acclaimed game like Fez, people still haven't forgiven Phil Fish.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 4th July 2013 3:43am

Posted:A year ago

#23

James Prendergast Research Chemist

741 439 0.6
80% of all projects go over time and over budget. Normally this is a b2b reality and consumers are buffered from it.

Fixed that for you! Unforseen consequences and issues hit every project in every industry. Some are able to be overcome with little cost or time whilst others become sinks that seriously hinder and delay a part or the whole of the project. This is one of the reasons why most "official" opening days/events are set months or years after a real place has opened! :D

People who are not understanding that (especially in these comments) leave me feeling incredulous.

And as for the ridiculous comments about how if they'd only got $400,000 instead of millions what would they have done? Guess what? The game design changed to fit the new budget reality. It was literally one of the first things DF stated after the money started rolling in. To paraphrase: "We'll be expanding the vision and design of the game and adding more features and expensive production values."

Sometimes I do wonder if people have any sense or if they just like to dogpile onto things without thinking it through.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 4th July 2013 6:30am

Posted:A year ago

#24

Shane Sweeney Academic

417 441 1.1
Maybe, but then it becomes a magic number we made up.
Least in software projects we can point to the Standish group report for the 80% figure.

Posted:A year ago

#25

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

961 1,759 1.8
A lof of things changed when KS happened.

One was that you could get the money you needed to make your game your way without any further interference. That's what developers have always blamed any problems on, and why a lot of developers try to exist without encumbrances from publishers, VC's, etc.

What also changed, as part of the implied contract, is that yes indeed - You don't miss milestones and you don't underdeliver. All the excuses for that evaporated when they hit their goals. THEIR goals.

EDIT: Here's a fix. They asked for 400K to make game a. They got 2M so went to game b. They failed at game b, so at least use the 2M to make game a in the time remaining. That won't be as good as the grand game b plan, but what it will be is what you promised the public you would deliver.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 4th July 2013 8:39am

Posted:A year ago

#26

Bjorn Larsson CEO & Executive Producer, Legendo Entertainment

11 4 0.4
What a bunch of amateurs.

Posted:A year ago

#27

James Prendergast Research Chemist

741 439 0.6
@ Shane - that's true. I actually didn't think your 80% number was sourced from anything I presumed it was just representing "a large percentage". :)

Posted:A year ago

#28
Chances are, the only way to blow 3.3 million is to make a hire staff left right centre, buy alot of equipment and soda, and move into a swanky building. Oops no more more to make a game. I still reckon that with fiscal discipline and allocating 1/3 of the free KS funds, there would be room for more game, longevity and extras to last forever ( a few years) and maybe make 2 more really great games

Posted:A year ago

#29

Andreia Quinta Creative & People Photographer, Studio52 London

236 658 2.8
He could win some points if backers received a letter detailing (and I mean real detail) where the costs have gone rather than begging for more funds due to poor financial management. It would show backers he has nothing to hide and enable said backers to see why he ran out of their money.

Not doing so just begs the question; where did $3.300.000 out of $400.000 go?

Posted:A year ago

#30

Gareth Eckley Commercial Analyst

88 68 0.8
Totally not surprised.

Posted:A year ago

#31

Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games

363 208 0.6
Pointing out that all software products delay a bit and go overbudget never saved anyone from a publisher. You made a deal. Keep it! Heh in fact if you are looking for a job as a producer/director and you pitch this line with a smirk.. you have to be very lucky if you get it! :) people have lost job opportunities for less than that!

Now having said that sure it is not unusual that some games may be delayed, and that might be ok depending on the reason and amount of time! Budget too! you get 10-20% over budget.. if it is worth it and makes the game better it is ok. But they had already received a massive amount of money. It's not like they got 500K and designed a bit more and whatnot and reached a million! They asked 400K they got 3.3m and now they ask for a second round talking about tipping jars. Sounds a bit greedy to me! But I might be wrong. It may be that they are used working with higher budgets. But that is not their reality anymore.

Nobody here argued the quality of the game or the artwork or whatever. It is the project and finance management that appears to be problematic. I always managed to design games on budget so I wonder how people with much more experience on more complex projects and more succesful than me could not!

Posted:A year ago

#32

Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist,

67 46 0.7
I'm not sure, but part of the reason for this ordeal might be due to Double Fine actually paying their employees.

That said, this makes me wonder if Double Fine launched their second Kickstarter campaign a little too early.

Posted:A year ago

#33

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,186 1,273 1.1
Two choices, we can shout about responsibility, take the chance to be a prickish publisher for a day and theorize about how to properly calculate budgets.

Or we could realize that this is Tim Schaefer and if you faked an Anonymous video in which he is sentenced to flock himself, he is the kind of guy who would create a video answer of him actually flocking himself (for show of course).

This is why there is no reason to be angry, because Tim Schaefer already is in this weird place where not only the end product of development is monetized, but also "every day" life of developing via documentaries. So if one of his crazy money making schemes does not work, just shrug it off, brace yourself for more crazy and keep tossing money at him. It is well worth the entertainment, even if you never play the games.

Posted:A year ago

#34

Brian Smith Artist

198 94 0.5
On the one hand, the way he's dealt with the situation is fair and with honesty. He's not charging backers more, he's not giving them less etc... This is all good. On the other hand it's pretty ropey if you are that far out with your design budget. I mean this isn't just a bit out, it's miles out. It's out so far that for most in this position it'd be your last game. I don't doubt that he purely wants to create a great game. That's admirable in itself. Could $3 million plus have created a great game without this..... of course it could.

Posted:A year ago

#35

Andreia Quinta Creative & People Photographer, Studio52 London

236 658 2.8
On a related topic, I keep coming back here to check his face from the article picture, it's pure gold. Also, there seems to be evidence now of what happened to the remaining funds.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 5th July 2013 8:56pm

Posted:A year ago

#36
I believe all Kickstarter funding should have a transparent accountability I.e a breakdown of all the spent and allocate costs involved in development and wages for people working on the product should be readily available to backers.

this will help reduce the temptation to use the funds to be spend directly on growing their own studio or other on going costs. such a method could also allow backers to raise a red flag if suspect accounting is suspected whereas currently backers have effectively no rights

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dr. Chee Ming Wong on 5th July 2013 10:46pm

Posted:A year ago

#37

Michiel Kramer UX / UI Designer, THQ Studio Australia

1 4 4.0
I find it a bit naive of some people to say they are fine with this...... I bet the some people from the management team at Double Fine had a good payday......

If you ask for 400.000 and end up receiving 3.3 million!! (mind you that is 8x more) and still manage to run out of funding long before the project is finished clearly something is not right...

Posted:A year ago

#38

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,021 1,470 1.4
@ Michael They were making a different game an $3 million than they were at $400K, something which they made very clear during the development process and information provided to backers. They had to rebudget and structure the entire game to meet the new, much higher expectations of their new, much higher budget. They overshot. It does happen.

Posted:A year ago

#39

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend

292 704 2.4
Regardless of how everyone here takes this statement from Double Fine, there is one thing that cannot be changed.

This has cost DF the trust of some of its backers and more importantly has damaged the credibility of games development via crowd funding. Of course this was inevitably going to happen sooner or later, but the unfortunate thing is that DF were hailed as some sort of example of how you should do a kickstarter.

Now that the 'kings of kickstarter' have cocked it up on a seemingly huge scale, it has the knock on effect of making people think twice about backing projects from unknown teams. This has eroded trust within the crowd funding community and it will take a while to win it back.

Posted:A year ago

#40

Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online

144 94 0.7
One thing I did not find mentioned here is that the project is not only "over budget" but also super late - it was slated for a 2013 release and now we are looking at a 2015 one? For a graphic adventure that saw its development start in 2012?!

And while I am fine about having funded the project, I feel dubious about whether it's ever going to be released as promised, boxed copy and all that. They better have set aside some of the millions for fulfillment of the physical tiers.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Roland Austinat on 9th July 2013 10:55am

Posted:A year ago

#41

Micky Klugman Writer/Concept Guy

8 14 1.8
actually, I believe with this early access plan, that is EXACTLY what he's doing, he's cutting features and selling a cut-back version as part of a early access deally on steam, to raise funds to ...well finish the game.

Posted:A year ago

#42

Micky Klugman Writer/Concept Guy

8 14 1.8
Seb Downie
Ever heard of cutting features/levels or leaving them for post-patching or DLC? "Designed too much game" HA!
actually, I believe with this early access plan, that is EXACTLY what he's doing, he's cutting features and selling a cut-back version as part of a early access deally on steam, to raise funds to ...well finish the game.

Posted:A year ago

#43

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