SpaceVenture, my biggest Kickstarter disappointment


This has been brewing for some time now. This is a write up of a Kickstarter project, undelivered to this date, in the making for a bit over 5-years now. To be in more fact, it passed its 5-year anniversary on June 12th, 2017, making the original point of being successfully funded in now so distant 2012. The project in question managed to raise $530k, that is over half a million dollars, and yet, it's not yet done. I am talking about my biggest disappointment in crowdfunding, the SpaceVenture-project by the former Space Quest-developers Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy.

Let me give some history here. Back in the day, the Two Guys From Andromeda, that is Murphy and Crowe, broke up after Space Quest 4. They both were individually involved in the two later SQ games, Crowe on SQ5 and Murphy on SQ6, but they never did work together, as they had fallen out and didn't come along together at that time. To everyone's surprise, the spat that lasted nearly two decades was put aside on 2012, at the height of Kickstarter graze, when they hugged and made up in order to produce yet another Murphy/Crowe joint production as a spiritual successor to the Space Quest series.

It was a warm, fuzzy feeling. As a kid, I had loved Space Quest, so when the Kickstarter began I jumped in no-question asked. It was the first time I funded something where I didn't even watch the pitch video. The fundraising went smoothly enough, evident of the 30k they got in the top of the originally asked 500k. Now, as this was during the heated days of Kickstarter after the success of Double Fine, many speculated the project could have been more successful than that if the guys had been more hands-on with the drive, but they weren't really.  And far better developer than them, Jane Jensen didn't manage to gather more than 430k herself, during the same time frame, so 530k was decent enough.



So, the guys were successful and they started trucking along. At first, it all looked very good. There were frequent updates and on 22nd of August they released the fifth instalment of their living concept art prototypes. They even had their SVRewards site up and running, that was supposed to give insider info about the project and for a time it did until that slowed to a trickle as well.

On July 17th, 2013, they made their biggest update to date, when they released a playable demo of the early section of the game. And it looked good. It felt like a solid adventure game as well as something, that was created by the same people responsible for the first 4 Space Quest games. At that point, I was at the height of my excitement.

Come to the end of 2013 and to 2014, a lot of people started to ask, when would the game actually come out. Surely, it would be close now, given, that the team had an engine and they were, at least according to their updates, right on track. They gave updates, which reassured some, but not everyone. I was still firmly believing they'd do it in a time frame that was agreeable. Their original 2013 release schedule had just been too ambitious, I thought.



Finally, on June 7th, 2014, they gave an update, where they stated, that 1/3rd of the game was finished and their conservative estimation of the release would be around a year. On the surface I was still calm and even gave them a short "all good, keep up the transparency", but I was still thinking that man, were they wrong about the project length. Something I thought would take two years, at max, was going to take three instead. But that I knew I could live with. But there were voices of dissent as well and I couldn't really disagree with many of them either, as projects with similar budgets had come out already in time. Games, that were vastly more ambitious and complex than what SpaceVenture was and is.

On September 30th, 2015 came the big bomb of an update, where we finally learned, that the team hadn't made any considerable progress in the main game because of many personal issues regarding their families. I won't go into that, but frankly, I felt a bit cheated, as their previous updates had been all sunshine, with promises of progress. While they did release a playable Cluck Yegger game, a survival horror parody, in Steam, the main beef, SpaceVenture was, in their words, still a year away, in 30th of November, 2016.

To that point, I had already written SpaceVenture as a failure, so it wasn't really big of a moment of disillusionment. So November 2016 came and went and no game. 2016 was also a year of only 4 official updates and frankly, I wasn't really expecting much, least a release. I still liked all the scene updates they had, but as far progress towards completion goes, I hadn't the faintest clue.



As of this point, 2017 has seen only one update. It's about a walk around in the scene that was already shown in prototype back in 2014, but this time around it has completed game assets. As a whole, the project doesn't feel like a passion project for the developer anymore. It has an air of something, that has become a burden for them and I can't help but feel, that it will have an effect on the final game as well.

Sure enough, there's still backers on board, who are more than willing to give the usual "take your time" pep talk, but they've already had 5 years. During those 5 years, a lot of other KS projects have been finalised. Some companies have finished more than one actually, and a good many of adventure games, funded before and after SpaceVenture have been published, some of them even relatively big ones.

So yeah, SpaceVenture is my biggest disappointment in Kickstarter at the moment. I have been disappointed on games that have come out from crowdfunding, but at least even those bad games were delivered in the end, more or less the way they were promised. Very few of them have been delivered within the exact time frame promised, but none of them has been as late as SpaceVenture is and none of them ever made me question if there's any actual development going on with the game.




I can understand if a project takes a bit longer than projected. Hell, even back in the day I thought it was ambitious of them to aim at a 2013 delivery date, giving them around a year of development time. I was figuring it'll take at least 2 years for them to get it done, 3 years at max. But now, we are officially in year 6 and there's a big, burning question in my mind: the budget. How long can a budget of a half a million take them? In all honesty, they've claimed that the budget is still fine, but is it really?

From the fantastic Ron Gilbert lead project, Thimbleweed Park, I learned that even their retro-themed adventure game cost over 1 million in the end. They raised a tad over 600k of it through Kickstarter. This took place in December 2014, the game itself was released to rave reviews in March 2017, so it took about 2 and a half years to make. And it is a lengthy, complex adventure game in a way I don't believe SpaceVenture ever has tried to be.

I really don't know if SpaceVenture will ever come out. in truth, I don't really expect anything of it anymore. There's just not an ounce of excitement about it anymore, as I have the feeling that anything it will be in the end, is just too little, too late.









Comments

  1. There's definately a lot to learn about this issue.
    I like all of the points you've made.

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  2. Interesting take. For me it was an investment that didn't pay off, but those are the Risks With Kickstarter and it happens. I'm not disappointed, but satisfied with the outcome. Clearly making a 2D game would have been within budget, but a full 3D adventure is a million plus if you want quality asset production. And as you mentioned they've blasted past a reasonable time frame, with zero mention of a 5 year celebration or something. I'm a fan of the series so hopefully they figure out what went wrong.

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  3. You are way too serious about games man. I am almost 40 years old now and played all the SQ games when I was a kid and I actually worked on this game for free , like sunk in actual hours of my life and I care less about when it drops then you do. All you did was pledge a little bit of money to help make something and I can say with the experience of actually working in videos games and movies that this stuff is not important enough to write butt hurt articles about. It was a dream of mine to work with Mark and Scott and they are great people that have families and responsibilities of which Space Venture should come dead last on that list. Please go outside and enjoy life before you perish!

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  4. I'm hoping that what ever happens with the game, we get a good, official post mortem of it. This has been one of those things where a lot of things have gone wrong in a perfect order to cause some big delays. It also shows how vulnerable a project with such a small core team is.

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  5. From the sound of it I struck a nerve here.

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  6. You did a little because I devote my life to this crap. I am sorry I came off as an asshole though cause I honestly did not mean too. I should be more understanding of how other people view their "investments" in the future.

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  7. Oh what a tangled web woven! Actually, it was Chris Pope, Mark and Scott that asked for the money, so when fans contributed, of course they are going to be upset that it's not done. Deal was not fulfilled. Some believe it will come, others don't, only the future will tell. Some fans are going public; CP/MC/SM will have to deal with their promise to fans. They are responsible, not the fans, for this situation.

    Second, this is a leadership issue. What happened with the 3D Cluck Yegger shooter for iOS that took 6 months to develop? A fan created that with Mark, and the result was comical. If you have CP & MC & SM running things, how are leadership decisions made? Ask the three-headed hydra.

    Third, with no strong leadership, this game will never, ever be completed. They'll 'finish' it, then maybe Scott wakes up and wants to add things. As far as I can tell, it's total chaos. Chris Pope reminds me of Paul Trowe -- a wannabe who has no experience and no clue.

    It could have been done long ago, but with janky or non-existent leadership, and a lack of updates for the fans, they only have themselves to blame. (Note: Trowe and Pope's skills seem to be in running Kickstarter campaigns, not caring for valuable IP development.)

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  8. I'll still be happy to see it released if it ever is regardless of how long it takes.. Though I can't say I have confidence that it will ever come out at this point.. Thanks for letting me know about Thimbleweed I will have to pick that one up in the near future it looks fun.

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  9. The big difference between Trowe and Pope is, that Trowe is genuinely shady, whereas Pope just seems to be in a way over his head situation. A good project manager is something SpaceVenture sorely lacks.

    I recall when I saw Larry reloaded pitch the first time. There always was something off putting about Trowe, but I gave them the benefit of doubt because of Al Lowe. Sadly enough, despite the game was released, Trowe ended up even shadier than my initial reaction of him was.

    But Pope just seems like a pretty decent guy who is over his head.

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  10. Yup, I won't be mad if the game is released and I will judge it based on what it will be, not how it was produced.

    I like Thimbleweed quite a bit myself. It very much feels something Ron Gilbert set out to do: a game that could have been made between Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island.

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  11. Me too... I think if they do eventually pull it off (I still have a minuscule glimmer of hope that one day it will be released) and I too will judge it based on the end result not the process it took to get there but I am not holding my breath... I just check back every few months to see if there's anything new and then forget about it again.. I only "invested" 30 bucks on the thing, I've blown that much on far stupider things so I'm not going to get too worked up over it... If anything I'm more annoyed they detailed Ken Allen's project for this. I just bought Thimbleweed and I am about to play it... I don't know Ron, nor have I played Maniac Mansion (though I loved DOTT) and Monkey Island is one of my faves.... I look forward to trying this out, well... Now :P

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  12. As your screenshots show, they did try to make a game, they have had over a hundred updates, and the entertainment value of this behind-the-scenes look in game development has been worth my kickstarting.

    Most likely we'll get continued updates and in 2020 it will be released. That could still happen, so we'll see.

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  13. on the Adventure Gamers forum, one user said it pretty well, when he compared SpaceVenture on those fan driven Sierra remake projects. He was right in the sense of, that while the game still might be in production, it can't really be though as a professional project anymore. they're hammering it away, but when it will be done is anyone's guess.

    Well, all things said, at least SpaceVentrue isn't Project Phoenix.

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  14. Hey thanks for linking to the living concept art, I hadn't seen that in years! It was a blast to work on, especially the little mini arcade game :D

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  15. You worked on those? I always thought they were a very clever way of prototyping ideas. And they even worked pretty well across different browsers despite whole HTML5 thing was still pretty new at the time.

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  16. Yeah, my colleague Martin and I did most of it, we had help from our illustrator Richard as well. Mark Crowe did all the environmental art and Scott Murphy wrote some dialogue. Martin wrote a blogpost about it afterwards: http://martinkool.com/post/24901202449/5-games-35-days-and-500000-buckazoids. We pitched HTML5 as the platform for the actual Spaceventure to get built with in hope that we'd then be a part of the development team but they ended up going with Unity. Still look back on it as a bucket list experience :)

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  17. You guys did really good job with that, all in all. I don't know if HTML5 had been a right choice for a game project back then yet, but nowadays it definitely is something to consider at, as it has matured quite a bit.

    I've looked at some HTML5 engines and they already are quite capable little things. Doing something like an adventure game certainly is in the realms of possibility for the tech.

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  18. I look back on my hours and hours of time dedicated to painting backgrounds and designing characters for this game as one of the highlights of my career - at least my enthusiasm was at a record high. At one point we were communicating daily about plans and designs. Then at some point things just dropped off completely. I wish I could have helped more in completing the game but at a certain point I just had to let go. It's a shame. I'm proud of the work we did and I wanted to do more. I wanted this to be my full time job.

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  19. What were your contributions?

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  20. If there is one aspect that shines through the updates it is the game art. I really dig the art style, even the Cluck Yegger game the released looked very nice despite I didn't really like it as it's not my type of a game.

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  21. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0afd72f24b6b0ea0695e369a68b29c24fd09aba15eecb0cd59af92ab6f4197ec.png

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  22. I really do dig that character design. I've always loved pulp sci-fi. That's why I like the graphics of the remake of SQ 1 as well, as it has very nice retro sci-fi aesthetics on it.

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  23. My contributions were small but just like you everything dropped off. These guys were my hero's growing up and I wanted to make games but somehow I got off course and ended up a 3D artist. I did some 3D models for props some of which did not get used I think and some of the bases for the mutant chickens in the mini game. Also some character work including face shapes for a girl and a old male character. I hold no ill will towards either of them but I must say that Mark Crow seems to be doing all the work by himself and I commend him for his talents and drive.

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  24. Scott Murphy seems to have disappeared somewhere. He was, for a while, very active on Twitter, but hasn't posted anything there since 2015. I think he kinda disappeared after that open letter they put out a couple of years ago.

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  25. NO TURUDDAD PLEASE DON'T CANCEL

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  26. Gimme a break even with this side game this is pure vaporware. A lot of people say that AA game designers take like 5 years to make a game on the latest hardware platforms and Gen Z anime nerds on Twitter call it vaporware since they have no patience. They have never waited for Duke Nukem Forever obviously or a Metal Gear Solid 5, which was far from a long development cycle but it did lag on and on before it ended ugly.

    At this point, Murphy is MIA. He could have run away to the "redneck riveria" to be his dying mother and his share of the $250k. We feel sorry for you Scott and you're stories. He has ADD or whatever it is. Does he work at the Wal-Mart? You abandoned you're online social accounts and no longer are in touch with the main audience. Anyone who thinks this game will ever get done is kidding themselves. It was far too ambitious. Crowe has completed more games at other companies without Murphy and if hasn't made any progress towards completion it will never be done. There are bands with PledgeMusic funding that have done the same thing and disappeared for years. Musicians are more likely to be unstable, abuse drugs and have run ins with the law. To think that this isn't a similar sort of situation, at least with Scott Murphy is really

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  27. I don't actually think it even was too ambitious. Besides the more high fidelity art, I never got a feeling that they were doing anything drastically different as far gameplay or puzzle go and what they wouldn't have had done previously in their careers.

    The biggest failing of the project really seems to stem from the lack of proper planning and project management. The same seems to have happened with the other Sierra related revivals. Jane Jensen managed to turn out a game that was mediocre at best, pulled down by lacklustre technical execution as well whereas Larry 1 Remake, while the best version of the game if you ask me, was too tied down with the original design that doesn't really work that well today. And then there's Hero-U that suffered greatly from a poor decision as far game design goes but seems to have picked up to a degree and might even get released at some point, but might have turned into so expensive endeavour for the Cole's that they'll probably never recoup their investments and the planned series will stop at one game, unless someone doesn't bail them out.

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  28. @Brent Forrest I really like the art, if you need programmer or game designer for this game.
    I can help

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  29. the game will be finished someday. do something else in the meantime. haha. i mean as far as our generation is concerened scott and mark are the only guys who can make a game like space quest.. who else is going to do it ? honestly. if i had to choose to wait for one more or maybe the last space quest like game , or NEVER get one , ill choose to wait. this game will be finished someday. and i for one am going to really enjoy it when it is.

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