As an avid Indie Games fan and a fledgling Indie Developer myself, I often find myself traipsing through Steam and Kickstarter to find something yummy, something new and exciting to share with you lovely Cinelinx readers.
In my adventures, I happened across a game called The Stomping Land, a multiplayer survival game based on hunting (and being hunted) by Dinosaurs. The game immediately leapt out at me as I eagerly watched the trailer. The game promised an array of exciting features and gameplay; such as forming tribes with other players online, setting up elaborate traps and having vast expanses of jungles filled with prehistoric reptiles. A veritable dinosaur lovers delight.
I was happy to see the game had been successful in it’s Kickstarter campaign, raising a whopping $114,060, almost 6 times more than the original goal. Next, I visited the Steam Greenlight page. Currently the game is available via Early Access for £18.99 and has been since the end of May. Everything seemed to be accounted for until I looked through the comments.
Gamers were expressing frustration that the developer behind The Stomping Land, Alex Fundora, has not provided any more information since the Early Access release. As it stands, this means that people who have purchased The Stomping Land have been left in the dark for nearly two months. I was incensed to do some digging around. I could simply not believe that a game with so much promise and originality had been left to rot by it’s creator. I was frustrated FOR these gamers and so took it upon myself to search for answers.
My first port of call was Twitter. The last Tweet made by the official The Stomping Land Twitter page was posted on the 21st of June. I visited the Facebook page, which has a large following of over 12,000 fans, and discovered the last post there was on the 30th of May. Neither of these posts indicated developers would not be able to communicate with the community for what is now over a month.
After more searching I managed to find a series of forum posts on The Stomping Land forums. It turns out for a number of weeks, a poster known by the name of GovernorOstrich had been making weekly posts with “updates” on the situation with The Stomping Land. Incidentally none of these posts gave any information at all about the game. In the most recent post, GovernorOstrich stated he had only been commissioned to work for The Stomping Land team until the 31st May and had not been obliged to make forum posts since then. He had simply been doing so to try and soothe the fanbase who were understandably growing more and more impatient. He stated he felt he was “stringing the fan-base along” and announced he would no longer be making his weekly posts.
The entire situation is a mess. Even if the Devs finally decide to come out of the woodwork and provide some information or an update about the game, the way they have treated their fan-base is fundamentally wrong.
Fans who have pledged money to any game in development should not have to go on a wild goose chase around the internet to find out what is going on with the game they have paid for. Gamers have reported that the game is in a lesser-state than what was presented on the Kickstarter video. People did not pay for a pre-alpha version of a game, they paid for the game to be developed and improved. You’d expect more from a game which raised $114,060 via a Kickstarter campaign and is available via Steam Early Access at $25 a pop.
The Kickstarter page states: “The game’s progress will be very connected to the community through the forums, where ideas and the challenges behind them are shared” – until what point? Until you release the game on Greenlight? If so why was that not mentioned here? People pledged money towards the game with this in mind, which ultimately means the developers have lied to the very people who have funded them.
Not only have the developers of this game risked their own reputations, unfortunately this will no doubt have caused some collateral damage, by means of making people question the integrity of other Indie Developers and Kickstarter Campaigners in general. 2013 was filled with Kickstarter controversies and it seems developer/player trust is continuing to be frayed.
The story seems to echo a similar case in 2012 when famous Youtubers Yogscast launched their own Kickstarter campaign for a game they called Yogventures. Managing to raise $567,000 the campaign was dubbed a success, but things did not run smoothly and the Yogscast team ended up cancelling the game, with pledgers not receiving refunds. As with The Stomping Land, the team behind Yogsventures went AWOL from social media, before finally coming out to say development had ended.
Unfortunately these incidents remind us all that no matter how reputable the people behind a Kickstarter campaign are, there is always a chance your dream game will never come to life and you are sending your money into a figurative black hole. While it is understandable that developers can run into copious issues during the creation of a game, it is also worth noting that if a lot of money is asked for, you would expect a solid plan in place to use it effectively. If developers take money, while at the same time not knowing if they can get through the entire development of the game, it is dishonest and to a lesser degree, theft.
One could argue that the developers of The Stomping Land are super busy working on the game and have no time for social media updates, but I’d argue that it takes about 20 seconds to post a Tweet – and you would, if your fanbase had started up a petition to get your attention and possibly file a lawsuit, or simply if you were a decent developer who understood the importance of communicating with the very hand that feeds you – your fans.
It has already gone too far, there is little to no information about the progress of the game and no excuse is good enough. This aside, I looked at The Stomping Land as a game that had real promise and potential. I hope for the sake of the fanbase that the Developers come out of whatever hole they are hiding in and release more content and updates, bringing the game to the standard that has been paid for and is expected.
I hope that other Indie Developers will read this and take a thing or two from it. Never underestimate the importance of the community that grows around your game. They are people too, not just means of income. Treat them as so!