The nature of the beast

When it comes to crowdfunding it seems that the nature of the beast is, that almost every project is delayed. I'm fine with that, as in general if people are poor at something, they're in estimating how long making something takes. Time is like that, hard to evaluate. If you think something will take an hour it might take considerably more or less time, as things tend to happen. Or not and everything goes smoothly. But usually things happen.

Sometimes those things are technical. There's issues in manufacturing or there's problems in code or chosen game engine. At times there might be difficulties with the people working the project, especially in the smaller projects where a sickness of one person might mean a grinding halt for the whole project. As I said, things happen. That's just the nature of the beast.

But how big of a delay is too much?

I mean I do get that a project might get a bit more complex, if it gets more funding than planned and the scope of the project gets expanded. If you're making an RPG for an example and end up creating a whole new set of classes, characters or even locations, then sure, the game will get delays, as the system gets more complex every time you add more variables in it, as you also need to make sure that the things you add will blend in what you originally had in mind.

So again, how much of a delay is too much? And when is a delay an acceptable one?

It's not really a straight cut answer. There's cases when a development of a crowdsourced game or thing-a-ma-pop has started, but ended up in a stand still. There's projects where the development hasn't even properly begun despite the project has been funded for a good while. But on those both cases it all depends on why the delay happens: sickness, other personal matter or sheer incompetence.

There's two cases, when the delay is, in my opinion fully acceptable. The first is, when the scope of the original project gets more ambitious, especially if the project gets more funding. The other is, especially with smaller teams, if core members of the project get sick or otherwise detained by real life matters.  Here's the thing though, there has to be a certain amount of transparency about it all. If a project is delayed because of the matters the team itself knows, they need to tell about it. And I don't mean details about peoples private matters, like their health or other stuff. Just a general acknowledgment, that states that due to matters out of their hands, i.e. sickness or other matters, the project will be delayed because one of the key members is effected by it. People will understand that.
But only if the project creators tell about it as soon as they figure out it will have an effect, not on a proposed project release date a year later.

"Yeah, about that release. We haven't been working on this project for a couple of months now, as our key coder is sick. Sorry about that."

I know it's terrifying to tell people that your schedule has gone all wrong, but it's better to be upfront about it sooner rather than later. If the matter causing the delay is resolved sooner than you think, it's only a positive thing, if it causes more delay, then at least the backers are well prepared for it and will be more understanding about it.

If the project gets delayed because the scope gets bigger, I believe most people will understand that. Not everyone, mind you. Some people will never understand that creating something bigger than originally visioned will take more time. But a lot of people will get that: things don't just create themselves out of thin air. Like Broken Age for an example. A lot of people still like to bad mouth it because it was delayed and still don't get it why it took so much time to make, especially because it's not the longest game. But then again, they don't really understand that the artwork and the animation itself of it was a time consuming thing. It really is very much like playing an animated movie.

The reason I'm jabbering about all this is again a bit of a disappointment in crowdfunded projects communication. The project in question, SpaceVenture, which has been delayed for a couple of years now and which had a current projected released due to end of 2016. That didn't happen.  And it's all due to personal matters, of which you can find info if you google, but which I'm not going to repeat here.

As I've said, I do understand if sickness or what ever other personal matter makes people unable to work in the project. It can have a devastating effect for a small team, especially if 1/3 of the core team can't participate. Nothing against that. I get it. But what I don't get is deliberate poor communication.

After the first long delay, that took most part of the year it was updated after the fact that there had been issues. But during that hiatus the project kept updating and insisting that all was going more or less normally. And then they dropped the bomb, that the last half of the game had been pretty much untouched a good while, because of personal reasons. At the same time they stated, that these issues are behind of them now and that the work continues as usual and they have a completion time in mind.

Then they dropped an another update, not long before the closing release date, which said sorry, not going to happen. Not that it came as a surprise for me, as I've long since adjusted my mindset with them, that while not out right dishonest, they are far too optimistic in their updates. And that they aren't very good at scheduling. With SpaceVenture I've come to understand how important a task master like Ken Williams must have been at Sierra. And how much a well built pipeline like Sierra had helped the developers. From the looks of things, Murphy and Crowe aren't the only former Sierra developers who have noticed the same thing.

It's the nature of the beast, that projects are delayed. Hell, they get delayed even outside crowdfunding circles and with projects with seasoned project managers. That happens all the time. But crowdfunded projects are more public and with them communication is important. I've said it before, but I do think it's important to underline it again. Speak with people sooner rather than later. In the end a lot of people are pretty understanding.