Spacebase DF-9

Spacebase DF-9

TimOfLegend  [developer] Sep 20, 2014 @ 6:40pm
Tim Schafer answers common questions about v1.0
Hi everybody. I want to apologize for the delayed response from me on recent announcement of Spacebase v1.0. Most of Double Fine’s publishing staff and I are currently attending Fantastic Arcade in Austin, TX, and have been trying our best to keep up with the situation via our phones while we’re on the road. But now that I finally have time to sit down with a laptop, I’d like to answer some representative questions we’ve seen on these forums.

Here’s the first question!

“How about an ACTUAL explanation of what happened behind the scenes?”

We started Spacebase with an open ended-production plan, hoping that it would find similar success (and therefore funding) to the alpha-funded games that inspired it. Some of its early sales numbers indicated this might be the case, but slowly things changed, and it became clear that this was looking like a year and a half of production instead of five or so. With each Alpha release there was the hope that things would change, but they didn't. We put every dime we made from Spacebase back into Spacebase, and then we put in some more. Obviously, spending more money than we were making isn’t something we can afford to do forever. So, as much as we tried to put off the decision, we finally had to change gears and put Spacebase into finishing mode and plan for version 1.0.

“What happened to the devplan? What happened to the beta stage? How can ANY game go from Alpha 6 to a “finished” 1.0?”

In traditional development, “Beta” refers to a time when no new features are added but bugs are fixed. Things are different in early access where the game is in players’ hands at an earlier state, so the team has been fixing bugs all along as features are added. In the remaining dev time, there will be both bug fixes and new features so it’s true--calling it “beta” is a little inaccurate. But the amount of time fixing bugs is comparable to that of a traditionally-developed game.

“I thought you said you weren’t going to silently pull the plug?”

We are not silently pulling the plug. We are announcing our finishing features and v1.0 plan. I know it's not a lot of advance notice, but we're still here telling you our plan instead of vanishing quietly in the night.

“If you were going to end development, why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

One of the biggest lessons we have learned in this, our first early access title, is about communication. There should have been more communication to the players about the state of the game, and we apologize for that. But for us, it was never clear whether development was going to end because we always hoped that the next update would turn it around and allow us to extend development. So I suppose, ultimately, the answer was we always had hope we weren’t going to end it, until the end.

“Why put the game on sale (while internally knowing that development of the game was stopping)?”

Frequent sales are part of the Steam marketplace. We’ve had multiple sales throughout the game’s early access period in attempts to create a bigger audience for the game. As for the version of the game that people bought in this most recent sale, we are still working on it, fixing bugs and adding the final features to make the 1.0 version of Spacebase a fun and complete game.

I understand that the recent announcement was a disappointment. It was for you, and it was for us. We wanted to keep working on Spacebase for years. But Spacebase spends more money than it brings in, and that’s just not something we can afford to do any more. Set up against the expectation of the game being in development as long as Prison Architect or Dwarf Fortress, it’s hard not to find fault in the game by comparison. But we continued to sell the game, and will continue to sell the game, because we feel that based solely on its own merits, Spacebase DF9 is still a fun, clever, hilarious, beautiful and complete game.

It’s hard for me to see JP and his team get eviscerated on these forums, after I’ve watched them put their blood, sweat, and tears into Spacebase for the last year and a half. Telling you that they are hard-working and talented developers who toiled in good faith to create this unique work of entertainment probably isn’t going to change your minds about how you feel about this game. But I hope you might at least consider that no one is more disappointed than them that they will not be able to work on this game for years and years to come for reasons mostly out of their control.

We have stumbled awkwardly through some new territory with this game, and in terms of early access communication we fell short. But we are still proud of the game in the end, and are happy to have it on the roster of Double Fine titles. I hope you are able to reserve judgment on version 1.0 until it comes out, and then enjoy it for the unique and entertaining experience that it is.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for playing Spacebase.

-Tim
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Showing 1-15 of 740 comments
xlockeed Sep 20, 2014 @ 6:47pm 
Can you be clearer as to what is being done in 1.0? Not just a dev plan redirect, I'd like to hear what is being worked on and being fixed. If 1.0 is going to just be a tutorial and goals then you have a bigger problem with all the planned content that is in game but doesn't function correctly yet.Such as items and matter dropped to be never picked up, burnt tiles/blood stains that cannot be cleaned or fixed, datacubes to further tecs.
Vilusia Sep 20, 2014 @ 6:53pm 
I still think DF is just really bad at money managing. I wouldnt b surprised if you guys used money you made from Spacebase and put it into other projects. I mean honestly you guys got 3.3 MILLION for that one game and you ended up coming back for more money on kickstarter. The bottom line here is that DF is horrible with money.
Tasty Mushroom Sep 20, 2014 @ 6:56pm 
just say it, you ♥♥♥♥ed up and we are paying the price.
double fine lost nothing, the customer did!
be proud of this farce all you want.
i am done with your company an it's endless games.
you play the innocence card really well, too bad your actions do not reflect the same.

"double fine is not a random fly-by-night indie dev" you just act like one!
xlockeed Sep 20, 2014 @ 6:58pm 
Right start deleting comments please. This is a ask common questions guys. Please keep your two cents on the general discussions for crying out loud.
Vilusia Sep 20, 2014 @ 6:59pm 
Originally posted by xlockeed:
Right start deleting comments please. This is a ask common questions guys. Please keep your two cents on the general discussions for crying out loud.
Too bad this was posted in general disscussions.
xlockeed Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:00pm 
It's a pinned topic. Do you see the title of thread?
Vilusia Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:01pm 
Originally posted by xlockeed:
It's a pinned topic. Do you see the title of thread?
We can still post on it if we want to. If he didnt want posts he could of locked the thread at the beginning.
Cheeseness Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:06pm 
Thanks for the honest and heartfelt response.


Originally posted by Tasty Mushroom:
double fine lost nothing, the customer did!

I think you'll find that the dev team has lost a great deal - not being able to work on something you love is even worse than not getting something you'd been hoping for.

Originally posted by ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗVilusiaᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ:
I mean honestly you guys got 3.3 MILLION for that one game and you ended up coming back for more money on kickstarter.

They went back to Kickstarter for a different project. The 3.3 million was actually much less once kickstarter fees, fullfillment and 2PP's cut was taken out. Tim tweeted a little while back talking about how much of that was used up in wages. It costs a lot of money to pay people properly, and whilst many developers are willing to work for free on projects they care about, I respect and admire that Double Fine doesn't cut corners in that regard.

It's a shame that many people within the gaming community don't quite understand or have perspective on what it takes to make something. Some perspective should would help people empathise better.
Gmr Leon Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:23pm 
Hey Tim!

Thanks for dropping in to give a little more detail on what went down. Could you elaborate on why you chose to launch the game in what may be argued was a premature state? Er...Maybe more appropriately, was Double Fine simply uncertain of how early was too early to release a game to Early Access?

I'm not sure if you all didn't want to allocate the resources and time to aid in the development team's keeping communications well established with the community, but it seems like if this was the case that was as you admit, a big mistake. However what was a bigger mistake, it might be argued, was releasing it in the state it was (fairly raw alpha) and not providing it more resources to better develop and maintain communication simultaneously.

I'm not sure how Prison Architect handles this better, maybe it's more effective scheduling or something (or it being Introversion's sole focus as a studio), but from what I've read, it sounds like Spacebase was sort of similarly limited in terms of people despite being connected with Double Fine, pressing it to focus more on development than synchronous development and communications. Thus I have to wonder, if you saw these problems emerging and growing into making Spacebase more of a financial drain than it was profitable, why didn't you help them more to stem this? Were no other developers willing/interested in the project and/or were they too busy with their own?

Was this simply the result of a misstep in your first move into Early Access, and if so, besides improving communication, how do you see Double Fine improving their release of games to Early Access?

~cue maybe(?!) response~
Last edited by Gmr Leon; Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:29pm
TimOfLegend  [developer] Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:24pm 
Nope, all the money we made on Spacebase went back into Spacebase!

Also, we did get 3.4M for Broken Age, and we spent that on Broken Age. Then we did NOT actually go back to Kickstarter for more money. That is a common misconception. We took the money we made selling Act 1 to pay for Act 2, plus we put in our own money.

So, we are using the money we make to make games, and I think that's pretty good money management. What would be bad money management would be continuing development on a game that costs more each month than it makes.

Originally posted by ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗVilusiaᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ:
I still think DF is just really bad at money managing. I wouldnt b surprised if you guys used money you made from Spacebase and put it into other projects. I mean honestly you guys got 3.3 MILLION for that one game and you ended up coming back for more money on kickstarter. The bottom line here is that DF is horrible with money.
Gmr Leon Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:31pm 
Originally posted by TimOfLegend:
So, we are using the money we make to make games, and I think that's pretty good money management. What would be bad money management would be continuing development on a game that costs more each month than it makes.

...Well this was unexpected. Any chance you might address my questions? =O I'm really interested in if you guys think maybe you just released Spacebase a little too early in development, which led to it not receiving enough sales to effectively finance further development
vandigeth Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:53pm 
Is this a type of experiment you would repeat in the future? That is, would you establish an early access game with the intention of only continuing development until overhead exceeds monthly sales? That would make an impact on how people decide to buy into your early access program in the future.

Thanks for some clarity on this Tim. I've been a pretty big support of all of Double Fine's projects in the past; but this has shaken my faith in the Double Fine name. I expected more out of this title and am greatly disppointed in this result.
TimOfLegend  [developer] Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:54pm 
I want to respond directly to your statements, "...you all didn't want to allocate the resources and time to aid in the development..." and "...why didn't you help them more to stem this? Were no other developers willing/interested..."

Those statements make clear a large part of the disconnect I see between expectations and what goes on inside of a small developer. Every employee has to be funded by something: A publisher deal, a kickstarter, an outside investor, or the sales of our games. The last item is not a huge amount, and sometimes not there at all, so really the answer is the first three.

All of the resources you're asking me to throw at Spacebase are currently funded by one of those first three things. How would Midnight City feel we took a programmer they paid for to work on Costume Quest 2, and sent them to work on Spacebase? Would it be right to take someone paid for by the Massive Chalice backers and put them on Spacebase? Or one of the programmers Indie Fund paid for to work on Hack N Slash?

People on Spacebase have to be funded by Spacebase. Or any money that we have sitting in the bank, which in our case is not much. Still we have put a lot of that kind of money into the game as well.

And the biggest difference between Prison Architect and Spacebase? A lot more people bought Prison Architect. If you really want to compare Spacebase to another early access game, you need to find a similar story of a game that did not sell as well as was expected. How did they handle the lack of funds? We've tried to handle this difficult situation as well as possible.

Thanks for your questions!
-Tim

[update]
Correction to the above-- Spacebase was funded by Spacebase revenue AND its initial investment by Indie Fund. So the game did have a chunk of development paid for, but then how far it went beyond that depended on how well the game performed. Also, my example of borrowing someone from Hack N Slash is a little funny considering they were both funded by Indie Fund. :) But it's still true--we assume they would not like us shifting people around like that without consulting them first.


Originally posted by Gmr Leon:
Hey Tim!

Thanks for dropping in to give a little more detail on what went down. Could you elaborate on why you chose to launch the game in what may be argued was a premature state?

I'm not sure if you all didn't want to allocate the resources and time to aid in the development team's keeping communications well established with the community, but it seems like if this was the case that was as you admit, a big mistake. However what was a bigger mistake, it might be argued, was releasing it in the state it was (fairly raw alpha) and not providing it more resources to better develop and maintain communication simultaneously.

I'm not sure how Prison Architect handles this better, maybe it's more effective scheduling or something, but from what I've read, it sounds like Spacebase was sort of similarly limited in terms of people despite being connected with Double Fine, pressing it to focus more on development than synchronous development and communications. Thus I have to wonder, if you saw these problems emerging and growing into making Spacebase more of a financial drain than it was profitable, why didn't you help them more to stem this? Were no other developers willing/interested in the project and/or were they too busy with their own?

Was this simply the result of a misstep in your first move into Early Access, and if so, besides improving communication, how do you see Double Fine improving their release of games to Early Access?

~cue no response~
Last edited by TimOfLegend; Sep 20, 2014 @ 8:16pm
Gmr Leon Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:55pm 
Originally posted by vandigeth:
Is this a type of experiment you would repeat in the future? That is, would you establish an early access game with the intention of only continuing development until overhead exceeds monthly sales? That would make an impact on how people decide to buy into your early access program in the future.

Thanks for some clarity on this Tim. I've been a pretty big support of all of Double Fine's projects in the past; but this has shaken my faith in the Double Fine name. I expected more out of this title and am greatly disppointed in this result.

This is along the lines of what I'd like to hear about. How do they intend to avoid this situation in the future with their Early Access titles, and improve working with Early Access in the future. =O

Originally posted by TimOfLegend:
I want to respond directly to your statements, "...you all didn't want to allocate the resources and time to aid in the development..." and "...why didn't you help them more to stem this? Were no other developers willing/interested..."

Those statements make clear a large part of the disconnect I see between expectations and what goes on inside of a small developer. Every employee has to be funded by something: A publisher deal, a kickstarter, an outside investor, or the sales of our games. The last item is not a huge amount, and sometimes not there at all, so really the answer is the first three.

All of the resources you're asking me to throw at Spacebase are currently funded by one of those first three things. How would Midnight City feel we took a programmer they paid for to work on Costume Quest 2, and sent them to work on Spacebase? Would it be right to take someone paid for by the Massive Chalice backers and put them on Spacebase? Or one of the programmers Indie Fund paid for to work on Hack N Slash?

People on Spacebase have to be funded by Spacebase. Or any money that we have sitting in the bank, which in our case is not much. Still we have put a lot of that kind of money into the game as well.

And the biggest difference between Prison Architect and Spacebase? A lot more people bought Prison Architect. If you really want to compare Spacebase to another early access game, you need to find a similar story of a game that did not sell as well as was expected. How did they handle the lack of funds? We've tried to handle this difficult situation as well as possible.

Thanks for your questions!
-Tim

Thanks for the answer to that specific part. I suspected that might have played a major role in how it was developed, but I wasn't totally sure how things were organized. I thought if nothing else, there might be staff available not necessarily for development but for keeping the community up to date, however I can easily see now that that's simply not the case. I really do appreciate the response, albeit I was more concerned with your thoughts on how the release state of the game may have influenced its sales as well as how you aim to improve later Early Access releases.

Nevertheless I'm still extremely impressed you're doing this, so please don't take my response as ungrateful in that regard.

Edit: Uh. For anyone else that was completely unaware of this, if the Wikipedia page is up to date, Double Fine is only 65 people. I don't know about anyone else, but I had no idea how many people were working there until I just checked. This explains a lot, at least for me concerning how thin they may sometimes stretch themselves.
Last edited by Gmr Leon; Sep 20, 2014 @ 8:19pm
Hobbes Sep 20, 2014 @ 7:59pm 
Okay, so, I have one major question then that I think quite a number of us would like answered:

Given that the product is going to differ dramatically from what was being implied or suggested, if not outright promised at the beginning of the alpha cycle, and given the fact that despite your answers many of us feel that 1.0 is little more than Double Fine closing the doors on the game and pulling the plug and by your own admission now, that's what is happening.

Are you prepared to offer refunds to people who feel that the product is not up to the standard set by DoubleFine or that the product is not of Merchantable Quality? Or are those of us who have decent consumer protection laws (such as in the UK or Aus) going to have to invoke the spectre of our relevant local laws to get some kind of closure on the matter?
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