Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power released this past week to somewhat inconsistent reception from the series' fans. The action RPG platformer ended up being shorter than many players expected, with some citing 100% completion in around 5 hours. That, and a sharp cliffhanger ending, led some to believe that series developer Frozenbyte was withholding content to release as monetized DLC. However, in an extended blog post on Steam, Frozenbyte's Vice President, Joel Kinnunen, has stepped forward to clarify what happened behind-the-scenes of the game's development.
"We still think the game is good," he writes, "but the cliffhanger story and the relative shortness of the game are valid criticisms but ones which we didn't realize would cause a disappointment in this scale. Sorry!"
Kinnunen's post goes on to paint a picture of a creative vision that simply exceeded the reach of the studio's financial grasp. There is more to Trine 3's story, as fans had speculated, but rather than being held in reserve, these elements simply never made it to the table. The leap from 2D to 3D between Trine 2 and Trine 3 was a bold move, and one that ultimately proved far more expensive than Frozenbyte management had anticipated. As is, Trine 3 is close to three times more expensive than its predecessor, and Kinnunen insists that achieving their initial vision for the game would have tripled that figure yet again.
As of now, there is no plan for additional DLC content, but Kinnunen seems to suggest that the door is still open for some kind of story wrap-up. What form that would take remains unclear. He assures players that Frozenbyte will continue to support the release of Trine 3 with fixes and improvements, particularly for the game's online features. Their team will resume more active community engagement next week when they've had a chance to regroup from the backlash.
Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power is out and available for Windows. The original post by Joel Kinnunen can be read within the Trine 3 community forum on Steam.
I'm of two minds about this whole thing. The Mass Effect 3 ending debacle comes to mind, and the contrast in approach between Bioware/EA and Frozenbyte is immediately obvious. The latter should be commended for being understanding of their consumer base and upfront about why the offending decisions were made. However, Frozenbyte's failure to properly manage their funding is just another example in a continuous stream of financially challenged indie projects. Mismanaged funding has proven to be one of the biggest hurdles to independent development, and the possibility of it looms ominously over the heads of potential backers on the crowdfunding front. For independent development to move forward, devs may simply need to become better accountants.