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Edit: Kickstarter was replaced with a better term of Early Access, as well as adding additional information about the firings on November 13th. Ambiguous language replaced with more straight forward terms.

Early Access games have a very bad rap lately. There’s been failures left and right with the model, and nothing has personified the problems with the system then Double Fine’s Spacebase DF-9. If you want a deeper history of the problems regarding the game and what happened with it, I’d suggest reading Stuart Burns opinion piece here: Opinion: Spacebase DF-9 Self-Destructs.
But that’s not why this article is being written. At the time of writing this article, the latest Humble Bundle, the Humble Bundle Simulators 3, is being offered with a variety of simulation games. Games like Lunar Flight, Zoo Park, and Post Master. Now like with other Humble Bundles, you can get additional games by donating more money. But what’s concerning is the top-tier unlockable game, which of course is Spacebase DF-9. To unlock the game, you’ve got to pay $10 or more. Now, while the game sells for $20.01 at the moment (the penny is just plain odd), the real question comes in the history of the game, and the decision to make it the top tier price. And specifically, the fact that development has been all but abandoned by the creators of the game.

Another Humble Bundle...but this one has a little bit of a past.

Another Humble Bundle…but this one has a little bit of a past.

Now, while the 1.0 patch for the game allowed for mod support, that was November 13th. And considering the recent 12 layoffs included lead developer JP LeBreton, that seems to give a strong suggestion that development on the game has halted. Now please note, it’s been indicated that the firings had to do with an unannounced project that was canceled. However, Double Fine has gone on recording saying that development of many of those hinted features in the early access statement would not be implemented. Basically,  there was a lack of monetary resources to continue development. And yet, the game continues to be sold,  and those profits could be spent on resources to continue development of the game in question. While programming schedule and project forecasts can be a hard thing to predict reliability, the question that should be answered is how to guarantee the projects continued lifespan, and how to deliver to the customer what they were promised. Sales and the humble bundle is a good way of doing this, to continue funds coming in to continue the development effort despite the problems that have been experienced up to that point.

An abandoned game that has disappointed countless of fans in the Double Fine community.

An abandoned game that has disappointed countless of fans in the Double Fine community.

And yet the game can continue to sell, with no mention on the main steam page that development has been discontinued (and despite the only curator that has recommended the game, is Double Fine themselves). A game that can continue to bring in finances for Double Fine, despite the misdirection about the final product originally. The assertion that they did not lie to the customer is true in a sense, as the nature of early access and its stated goals can not be reached under the guidelines of the project, as long as the customer wasn’t lied to. However, where does the line get drawn in terms of continuing making money of a project? It’s a hard question to answer, but there’s a bigger question to answer. On the Humble Bundle page, the ambiguity of the development state of the product could be considered misleading. It indicates that the project “may not receive future updates”, despite the statements made by Double Fine and Tim Schafer himself. While the source code has been released, the vagueness of the statement seems like misdirection. It’s up to community support for the project to continue on, if the community so chooses to do so.. The company itself has discontinued development, and in all likelihood, discontinued support of it entirely. The Humble Bundle team may want to consider clarifying the statement.

Now luckily, there is an ability to decide to where the funds go, to the developers, to charity, etc. The problem in question does have a solution that’s available, but are the people who are buying the bundle informed well enough to make an informed decision?

Shaun Joy

Staff Writer

YouTuber Dragnix who plays way too many games, and has a degree in Software Engineering. A Focus on disclosure on Youtubers, and gaming coverage in general.

  • stryk

    I feel glad that I wasn’t the only one who caught on to that. That’s like GameStop currently selling copies of Phantasy Star Online for full price.

  • GuitarAnthony

    Double Fine is a tainted dev run into the ground due to Schaefer’s massive ego.

  • tdc898 .

    I think it’s kind of funny that a lot of the most prominent Kickstarters are all starting fall through at the same time. Well, it’s funny for me because I never donated to any of them, if I had I imagine this would really suck. It’ll be interesting to see if this causes Kickstarter to reform their system.

  • Psyramics

    While I agree the game woefully under-delivered on its promises, is it really fair to constantly knock it for being ‘no longer in development’? As if that weren’t the case for most games when they’re released? It’s only recently that post-launch development even became a thing. All the great classic of ye olden times discontinued development when they went out the door. Old game done, new game begun.

    Unless a game specifically states ‘Under active development’, I would assume it was no longer being worked on. Is that not normal?

  • dsvw56

    The “no longer in development” is relevant because the game comes depressingly short of the features promised.

    Edit : And from what I’ve been told, it still has some pretty severe bugs in it.

  • Fenrir007

    It is fair. Early Access is not meant to be a funding campaign for a game. It is used as a way of providing feedback to the game developer while the game is being made. In other words, it’s outsourcing QA to the players and allowing them to influence the design decisions as the game forms up.

    If Tim wanted to acquire the funds to make the game exist in the first place, he should either have done a Kickstarter OR at the very least fully disclosed that the game would only be completed IF a certain funding threshold was met.

    Yes, it is common for games to have features axed, but what Tim did was akin to pushing an alpha build to release candidate and settling for that.

  • Unbeliever

    I always said “Check the team background first before donating and if donating, give an amount you wont mind to lose.”.

  • tdc898 .

    That’s definitely a smart thing to do, but in my case I probably would’ve donated to Tim Schafer if I had a credit card at the time because until this happened I thought Tim would be perfectly capable of delivering. While I totally agree that you should be very careful when donating to kickstarter, I also think that the current system doesn’t offer enough protection if things go horribly wrong.

  • Johnathon Tieman

    One nice thing about Humble Bundle is you can choose which developers get money. One of the recent Humble Bundles had Double Fine’s Costume Quest 2 as a top tier reward. As I had wanted the product, but was loathe to give Double Fine any more money due to their actions regarding Spacebase DF-9 (and after seeing them hire Phil Fish as a DJ before laying off their own), I acquired it through the Humble Bundle but made certain Double Fine got nothing. Hopefully the remakes of Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle will be offered through Humble Bundle as well.

  • Stuart Burns

    I was almost angry about it until I thought about it and realized I could give them 0.

  • Stuart Burns

    I still find the game largely unplayable.

  • Jake Martinez

    No mention that this was a game that was given funds by IndieFund? This is the same group of people who just gave money to the project of another one of the “Five Guys”, Robin Arnott, just a couple of months ago. They also recently removed the page that had a list of people who made up the board, because many of them had ties to either IndieCade, IGF or various other actors who make up what can best be described as the “Indie Game Mafia” of cronyism and fail.

    Also, fun fact – Tim Schafer paid out the investment IndieFund made in his game, but didn’t have enough money left over after that to finish DF 9 so he canceled it, saying it was “done” even though it’s far from complete and there were many promised features that were left hanging – features that fans who paid into the game on Early Access had faith that Doublefine would deliver (they did not.).

    So, his buddies at Indiefund made their money back, but the people who supported him on Early Access basically got screwed.

    This is how Tim Schafer feels about his customers – not as important as his investors. Maybe it’s understandable, but I think we’ll see if the logic of this choice makes sense when many of us refuse to touch anything he makes ever again.

  • Brad Sherard

    ” the game sells for $20.01 at the moment (the penny is just plain odd)”

    Odd as an odyssey?

  • Mr. LHD6

    And his short-attention span.

  • Nick

    He also decided to join into Invisible Benefits of being a white male gamer video that got posted to FemFreq. So on top of poorly managing customer’s money, he’s also pushing an agenda in what he does.

  • Nick

    ‘A lot of the most prominent are all starting to fall through at the same time’ – not sure what you mean by this.

    Wasteland 2 – released.
    Grim Dawn (Titan Quest fame) – beta released, strong game.
    Star Citizen (Chris Roberts) – still in active dev.
    Pillars of Eternity (Obs. Ent.) – still active.
    Torment: Tides of Numenara – still active.
    Elite: Dangerous – still active.
    Planetary Annihilation (Uber Ent.) – released.
    Shadowrun returns – released.
    Ouya – released, but meh reviews.

  • Dexter Sinister

    “Now, while the game sells for $20.01 at the moment (the penny is just plain odd),”

    Yes, that price of 2001 cents certainly is A Space Oddity.