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Brian Mitsoda responds to Dead State vaporware accusations, reveals new release date

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Brian Mitsoda responds to Dead State vaporware accusations, reveals new release date

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Tue 8 July 2014, 20:47:56

Tags: Brian Mitsoda; Dead State; DoubleBear Productions

Brian Mitsoda doesn't like when people call Dead State vaporware. He doesn't like it so much, that he decided to draft a two part editorial/retrospective to answer the question "Why isn't Dead State Done Yet?!". It's a candid behind-the-scenes look at what I imagine might be the typical development cycle of a low budget Kickstarter game. Here's an excerpt:

Now, I’d like to jump back in time to the summer of 2009. That was the year where Annie, me, and Iron Tower kicked around the idea of Dead State publicly and I eventually formed DoubleBear. It wasn’t until 2010 that we decided to go forward with full development of Dead State, and we went public with that knowledge hesitantly. I say “hesitantly“ because most games aren’t announced until they’ve cleared pre-production: however, we needed to find volunteers to help us out with the production, and going public was the only way to put the word out. Aside from money needed for engine licensing, computer equipment, and business fees, we had zerobudget for production. Most of the time spent on the game in 2010 and 2011 was not full-time, but done as a side project for about 3-5 people - and a month of production without a budget does not equal to a month of full-time paid production. The difference is 40-60 hours a week per full-time developer, versus 20-40 hours a month for volunteer staff. Let me say that again: a complex game with no budget does not equal the same progress as a game that is being worked on full-time. Without adequate progress, momentum on any creative project gets stalled quickly, and that hurts everyone’s enthusiasm for soldiering on. When you need to pay the bills, your side project is going to suffer, and for a time in 2011, very little work was getting done on Dead State, and it was killing our will to continue making the game.

I’ve never discussed this before, but there was a point where we nearly canceled Dead State. In 2011, we had to face the facts: without a budget, there was really no way to make an RPG. We had talked about Kickstarter back then, but I felt it wasn’t fair to ask for funding with just a good idea or screen mockups. My biggest concern for a Kickstarter was that we needed to get a basic version of the game together to show our work to potential backers, and we would only have a few months to do it. Together, we decided that in the spring of 2012, either we would take the time needed to create a pitch for Kickstarter, or we would cancel the project. It was only because of a dedicated effort that the game got into shape for the Kickstarter campaign, and it was that experience that showed me that the core team (including myself) could do the game full-time if we had the money to make that happen.

In June of 2012, we launched on Kickstarter, and managed a successful campaign despite some higher profile projects being covered in the press. In July of 2012, we had the funds we needed to pay for full production. This money also allowed us to bring on contributors full-time and additionally search for and hire additional personnel to round out our project staff. For all intents and purposes, the Kickstarter rebooted production of Dead State. As of mid-July 2012, we were finally working as a full-time production studio and the progress being made on the game was instantly a whole lot faster. As far as I’m concerned, production on Dead State started at the point when my team could get paid to do full-time work (you know, how most games actually get made).

Luckily, most of the pre-production was done pre-Kickstarter, so post-funding, it was all about further development on our tools, creating art and design content, establishing schedules, and looking for additional team members. I will say that once we had financing, that responsibility to deliver Dead State was profound, and I’m aware of it every single day. We are indebted to our backers: there would be no DoubleBear or Dead State without them. If we want to grow our business and continue to make games, of course Dead State is going to be finished - does anyone seriously think we’d blow our professional reputations by ‘abandoning’ a project on Early Access? (Side note: Unfinished RPGs on Early Access are not a license to print money.) It’s always been our goal to build to something, namely an experienced group of talent that can continue to make video games and maybe even attempt another RPG (if it doesn’t bankrupt us).

[...] Before I wrap this up, I want to mention that when Troika released Bloodlines, several dozen people had poured years of development time into that game, and while we did not get the time we wanted to polish it, we all knew we were working on a great RPG and were proud of our (incredibly hard) work on it. The thing is: financially, it bombed. Today, it’s still a popular game, but back when it was released, we saw it enter the marketplace and heard crickets. Yes, in time people discovered it and loved it, but the feeling you have when a game you put so much effort into - that you feel you did more things right than you did wrong - when that game bombs, it’s devastating and makes you less likely to take risks in your career in the future. Morale aside, without the momentum of sales and fan support, Troika did not last long after Bloodlines shipped. All the accolades that came later couldn’t save the company.

Getting a team together, creating a new RPG, and getting the public to embrace it takes years of effort. Without support - without people getting the word out about it - an RPG isn’t going to get the attention it needs to sustain the developers so they can make another one. If gamers want more and different types of RPGs to be created, they need to understand the process of development and embrace the fact that RPG development is only going to be made possible by supporting both experienced and new teams. I’m not asking for everyone out there to buy a copy of Dead State (although that would be nice), but if you’re knocking my team for the length of the game’s development, I am asking for you to understand the complexity of what we are creating before you dismiss us. The absolute worst thing that can happen to any RPG development team is to create fans after it’s too late to create another game.
You may also wish to check out this reply to the second part of the article, in which Brian reveals that that the game's planned release date is now "September or October", with the public beta planned for August.

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