SpaceVenture, my biggest Kickstarter disappointment


This has been brewing for some time now. This is a write up of a Kickstarter project, undelivered to this date, in the making for a bit over 5-years now. To be in more fact, it passed its 5-years anniversary on June 12th, 2017, making the original point of being successfully funded in now so distant 2012. The project in question managed to raise $530k, that is over half a million dollars, and yet, it's not yet done. I am talking about my biggest disappointment in crowdfunding, the SpaceVenture-project by the former Space Quest-developers Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy.

Let me give some history here. Back in the day, the Two Guys From Andromeda, that is Murphy and Crowe, broke up after Space Quest 4. They both were individually involved in the two later SQ games, Crowe on SQ5 and Murphy on SQ6, but they never did work together, as they had fallen out and didn't come along together at that time. To everyone's surprise, the spat that lasted nearly two decades was put aside on 2012, at the height of Kickstarter graze, when they hugged and made up in order to produce yet another Murphy/Crowe joint production as a spiritual successor to the Space Quest series.

It was a warm, fuzzy feeling. As a kid, I had loved Space Quest, so when the Kickstarter began I jumped in no-question asked. It was the first time I funded something where I didn't even watch the pitch video. The fundraising went smoothly enough, evident of the 30k they got in the top of the originally asked 500k. Now, as this was during the heated days of Kickstarter after the success of Double Fine, many speculated the project could have been more successful than that if the guys had been more hands on with the drive, but they weren't really.  And far better developer than them, Jane Jensen didn't manage to gather more than 430k herself, during the same time frame, so 530k was decent enough.



So, the guys were successful and they started trucking along. At first, it all looked very good. There were frequent updates and on 22nd of August they released the fifth instalment of their living concept art prototypes. They even had their SVRewards site up and running, that was supposed to give insider info about the project and for a time it did until that slowed to a trickle as well.

On July 17th, 2013, they made their biggest update to date, when they released a playable demo of the early section of the game. And it looked good. It felt like a solid adventure game as well as something, that was created by the same people responsible for the first 4 Space Quest games. At that point, I was at the height of my excitement.

Come to the end of 2013 and to 2014, a lot of people started to ask, when would the game actually come out. Surely, it would be close now, given, that the team had an engine and they were, at least according to their updates, right on track. They gave updates, which reassured some, but not everyone. I was still firmly believing they'd do it in a time frame that was agreeable. Their original 2013 release schedule had just been too ambitious, I thought.



Finally, on June 7th, 2014, they gave an update, where they stated, that 1/3rd of the game was finished and their conservative estimation of the release would be around a year. On the surface I was still calm and even gave them a short "all good, keep up the transparency", but I was still thinking that man, were they wrong about the project length. Something I thought would take two years, at max, was going to take three instead. But that I knew I could live with. But there were voices of dissent as well and I couldn't really disagree with many of them either, as projects with similar budgets had come out already in time. Games, that were vastly more ambitious and complex than what SpaceVenture was and is.

On September 30th, 2015 came the big bomb of an update, where we finally learned, that the team hadn't made any considerable progress in the main game because of many personal issues regarding their families. I won't go into that, but frankly, I felt a bit cheated, as their previous updates had been all sunshine, with promises of progress. While they did release a playable Cluck Yegger game, a survival horror parody, in Steam, the main beef, SpaceVenture was, in their words, still a year away, in 30th of November, 2016.

To that point, I had already written SpaceVenture as a failure, so it wasn't really big of a moment of disillusionment. So November 2016 came and went and no game. 2016 was also a year of only 4 official updates and frankly, I wasn't really expecting much, least a release. I still liked all the scene updates they had, but as far progress towards completion goes, I hadn't the faintest clue.



As of this point, 2017 has seen only one update. It's about a walk around in the scene that was already shown in prototype back in 2014, but this time around it has completed game assets. As a whole, the project doesn't feel like a passion project for the developer anymore. It has an air of something, that has become a burden for them and I can't help but feel, that it will have an effect on the final game as well.

Sure enough, there's still backers on board, who are more than willing to give the usual "take your time" pep talk, but they've already had 5 years. During those 5 years, a lot of other KS projects have been finalised. Some companies have finished more than one actually, and a good many of adventure games, funded before and after SpaceVenture have been published, some of them even relatively big ones.

So yeah, SpaceVenture is my biggest disappointment in Kickstarter at the moment. I have been disappointed on games that have come out from crowdfunding, but at least even those bad games were delivered in the end, more or less the way they were promised. Very few of them have been delivered within the exact time frame promised, but none of them has been as late as SpaceVenture is and none of them ever made me question if there's any actual development going on with the game.




I can understand if a project takes a bit longer than projected. Hell, even back in the day I thought it was ambitious of them to aim at 2013 delivery date, giving them around a year of development time. I was figuring it'll take at least 2 years for them to get it done, 3 years at max. But now, we are officially in year 6 and there's a big, burning question in my mind: the budget. How long can a budget of a half a million take them? In all honesty, they've claimed that the budget is still fine, but is it really?

From the fantastic Ron Gilbert lead project, Thimbleweed Park, I learned that even their retro-themed adventure game cost over 1 million in the end. They raised a tad over 600k of it through Kickstarter. This took place in December 2014, the game itself was released to rave reviews in March 2017, so it took about 2 and a half years to make. And it is a lengthy, complex adventure game in a way I don't believe SpaceVenture ever has tried to be.

I really don't know if SpaceVenture will ever come out. in truth, I don't really expect anything of it anymore. There's just not an ounce of excitement about it anymore, as I have the feeling that anything it will be in the end, is just too little, too late.









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