Well that escalated quickly. Double Fine productions and Tim Schafer have officially pulled the plug on Spacebase DF-9. The game was in Early Access and was selling well, especially with the last Steam sale allowing people to pick it up for cheap. The game isn’t wholly funded by Double Fine but it’s not a financial loss for them – for both the studio and some of their investors, like Indie Fund, that money was already earned back through sales on Steam.
Spacebase DF-9 tasks the player with building and operating their very own space station filled with beings, the needs of which you will have to meet. Players start off with three beings and will have to build, mine and expand upon the station, all the while dealing with whatever the universe throws at you: sickness, asteroids, and the like.
But with the game chewing up more money than it was currently bringing in through Early Access sales, Schafer and his team decided to shut down official development of the game and its storyline. It will still be distributed through Steam and the source code for the game will be made available online along with development tools at a later date to open up modding possibilities. Double Fine will continue to provide bug support for the interim, but once the source code is available, production will cease. Schafer approached the game’s community on Steam and was frank about the issues surrounding its development.
“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, ” he wrote on the community discussion thread. ““There should have been more communication to the players about the state of the game, and we apologize for that.”
Schafer also reveals for the first time the methodology behind the development of Spacebase DF-9. The idea was to develop the game until it was in a playable state and then extend the development time based on the amount of money coming in from sales of the game on Early Access. It is now clear that most of the time the game was essentially in limbo, never quite getting to a state that one would call “complete.” but remaining on Steam for a nominal purchase price.
“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.
“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.”
Its… interesting to think of game development this way. Would you be comfortable paying for a game whose development and the project’s progress is directly tied to early sales of the game in an essentially alpha state? Given that most games are popular for nearly half a year following their launch and end up dropping in mindshare and consumer interest over time as people turn to the next big thing, was it perhaps not a better idea to develop the game with episodic content in mind instead?
Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Steam Discussions