Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: Unsung Story Drifts into Little Orbit

It was difficult not to feel bad for anyone who backed the Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians Kickstarter, a strategy/RPG developed by Playdek, given its promise. They’ve been part of a long, bumpy tale of drama.

The campaign raked in most of its funding at the start, when the involvement of Yasumi Matsuno was discussed and heavily promoted, a man well known for his involvement as creator, director, and writer in games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Funding slowed down when Matsuno mentioned on Twitter that he wasn’t too involved with the project, as he only submitted concepts, but many wanted to give the title a shot anyway.

Though Playdek had no experience with SRPGs, their mobile puzzle and board games were pretty good; they also released several games on a regular basis, which is why people trusted them despite no gameplay footage being available during the campaign. Unfortunately, they ended up learning a harsh lesson about why it’s good to be hesitant about developers who present no gameplay footage for their projects during the funding period.

The game was originally due for release in July 2015, and…well, you don’t need me to tell you it didn’t make that. Heck, we haven’t even seen the game in motion, despite the campaign concluding in February 2014. Throughout the last three-and-a-half years, it became clear the developers were in over their heads and had no collective vision. This was most visible in how the project’s scope changed drastically at one point during development, after Playdek shifted its focus to the multiplayer mode from the single-player; that was despite the Kickstarter page mentioning nothing about a multiplayer mode, and the accompanying pitch video only mentioning it in passing.

To say it’s been a rough road for anyone who put money into the project is putting it lightly, and that’s not even getting into how sporadic the Kickstarter updates have been. For instance, in an update near the end of December, they claimed another update would be due in the next month. But that never came, nor did it arrive in subsequent months. And after so much time, Playdek still hadn’t provided a look at the game, which left many thinking an update confirming its cancellation was forthcoming.

But a new update has finally arrived, though it’s unlikely this was the one they were planning. While it expectedly began with an apology for the game taking so long, this unexpectedly led into news that Playdek is no longer involved with the title. Instead, development has been turned over to Little Orbit, who’s also obtained the rights for the game. This transaction answered the question as to why it hasn’t been shown, but now further questions are being raised about the potential quality of the final product.

Little Orbit claimed they observed the progress (or “progress”) Playdek made with Unsung Story, and decided to start over from scratch. This means they’re taking the concepts from Matsuno’s original proposal, and are making the title that fans wanted to the best of their abilities, meaning the focus will be on the single-player mode. This hopefully means the other big names who were involved with the project are still here, like artist Akihiko Yoshida, composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, and writers Alexander O. Smith and Joseph Reeder. All four have been involved with previous Matsuno projects, and hopefully they’ll have significant input here.

Additionally, Little Orbit will be fulfilling all the Kickstarter rewards at no extra cost. Since some of them are physical rewards, this will be a burdensome task, one that hopefully won’t bankrupt the company in the process.

While it sounds as if Unsung Story could get back on track, there’s concern over Little Orbit’s resume. They’ve primarily handled video game adaptations based off franchises aimed towards kids for Cartoon Network, Dreamworks, and Warner Bros., and like many licensed titles, their quality is dubious. If you go down their list, you’ll find some quality products among a sea of mediocre and forgettable titles. What’s really worrying is that one of them is a strategy title that could bear some similarities to the title they’re now working on, Fallen Skies, which was regarded as a pale imitation of an X-Com game. Fortunately, CEO Matthew Scott acknowledged their reputation, and claimed that he wants to surprise fans with its quality, and hopefully they deliver.

Little Orbit says they plan to keep their backers updated as they work on it, a promise they’ll hopefully maintain, unlike Playdek. It’s tough to have faith in the project given what previously transpired and upon seeing the developer’s reputation, despite their assurances, but hopefully this turns out well. After so long, backers deserve a good product in return; hopefully the developers have some hidden talents, though the odds are stacked in their favor.

Leave a Reply