Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: A Functional Dysfunctional Systems

There were too many successful Kickstarter campaigns to remember from memory in 2014, and I made too many “A Kick for Kickstarters” entries on a nearly weekly basis to remember each one. A successful campaign among them was for successors to visual novel Dysfunctional Systems, to continue the series started by Canadian developer Dischain Media. The first game was successful enough on digital computer platforms, but the developer needed extra funding to make the successors they felt it deserved. It was an appealing campaign thanks to the beautiful artwork attached to it, and the developers appearing reliable thanks to their previous titles turning out well. It finished by raising $67,450 in Canadian dollars, a little over the $49,000 initial goal.

Unfortunately, its development didn’t go as smoothly as expected. The crowdfunding campaign finished in March 2014, but it was announced through a Kickstarter update at the start of 2015 that it was cancelled. They explained how the team struggled with its development the entire time, and that no one was satisfied with how it was turning out. It was bad news for everyone involved, but they promised that most who backed it would be refunded of half of what they pledged. At the time, I mentioned that the developers should simply release what they finished, but I can understand why they didn’t. If the developers move on to other work or try to apply to other game development jobs, they didn’t want a product none of them were proud of on their resume.

However, I didn’t think there was a chance of the project resuming development at the time.

The campaign provided a sudden update late last month saying Episode 0, Dysfunctional Systems: Orientation, would be released after all, and that backers would receive a copy regardless of whether they received a refund. It released on Steam on July 24th (a DRM-free version will arrive sometime soon), with backers receiving their keys. Those who’ve played it had mostly good things to say, but claimed the adventure felt short and rushed, and that the writing could use some polishing. It’s also evident from the trailer and screenshots that the art style was markedly different from the first game’s and the intended second game when you compare it to the assets on the Kickstarter page. But most claimed it’s good for the $4.99 price.

It was also confirmed in the post that development for episode 2 has restarted, and noted that the first game’s art director will return. The scenario, though, will be completely different from what was explained the Kickstarter page.

Artwork for the second episode was posted in another update, which looks great. There’s currently no telling how the characters will look in the game, but it helps that the base designs look far better than what was in place for Episode 0. There aren’t many details here, and their explanation that they’re not sure of how they’ll handle Episode 2’s soundtrack implies it’s still in the planning stages. Despite that, those who pledged and others who received refunds will get the game, while others who wanted the soundtrack will receive that too. They’re not promising that they’ll have the cash to fulfill other rewards, like the metal USB drive or the physical artbook.

Upon seeing this project revived, I’m wondering how they received the money to continue it. Since is been over two-and-a-half years since the cancellation, my assumption is that those working on the game made enough money from their jobs over time and put that towards restarting this project. But I’d like to see a detailed explanation for why it’s suddenly returned now, because it’s sure to be an entertaining story. It’s possible that update could be in the works as of this writing.

Regardless of that, I’m glad to see it back. Once a Kickstarter project is cancelled, sadness and madness mostly follows. But it’s not common to see one revived like this, and it’s the first such example I’m covering on this blog. It’s a welcome change of pace from all the dreary Kickstarter updates I feel like I’ve posted recently. I’m hoping the project stays on track from here, and that the developers aren’t starving themselves to fund its production, since it doesn’t appear they’re starting another campaign for extra funding.

More updates are presumably coming soon, and it will be best if they didn’t go for too long a period without them to prevent their backers and fans from getting worried. Hopefully the final game will be a project they’re at least satisfied with.

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