The lights are on
Dark Matter, a science-fiction platformer, released on Steam recently, and players were caught off-guard by the game's abrupt ending. Players are claiming that the game is incomplete and InterWave Studios released an unfinished product, but sold it for a full price. Erik Schreuder CEO of Dark Matter publisher Iceberg Interactive, has released a statement offering an explanation.
You can head here to read the full release from Schreuder. Dark Matter was originally conceived as a self-funded game, but a Kickstarter campaign was undertaken in order to expand the scope and release the game at a $30 price point. Unfortunately, that campaign did not meets its goal:
The idea was then formed to make Dark Matter an episodic series, with
episodes selling at a budget price of $14.99. Any further episodes
would, however, need to be dependent on the success of the previous
instalment. The first instalment is what has launched recently on Steam
and is simply called Dark Matter.
Schreuder then goes on to address players who have claimed that the game is incomplete:
We would like to stress that the game is exactly as described on Steam (including that it contains 14 levels) – it is simply not true that the game is unfinished, or unplayable. Some people have misquoted the developer as having admitted that the game is incomplete; we should reiterate that what was meant was that this is not the $30 full-priced game, but the episodic budget version (currently selling at $13,49 at 10% off).
Schreuder does not completely dismiss player concerns, however, and admits that that game's ending is confusing:
It is true however, that at present, the end of the game may cause confusion and is not satisfactory. We sincerely apologise for this, as it is not of the standard we would expect. We are working to offer a more conclusive and satisfying ending to the game as we speak and expect a fix to appear as soon we are able to.
As the game functions currently, players make it to a seemingly innocuous point in the game where they are meant to move onto the next area, and the text seen below appears on the screen.
On Friday, before Schreuder's statement appeared online, this statement appeared on the game's Steam community page:
No, the full story is indeed not complete yet because originally we wanted a longer game (12-16 hours) but couldnt finish it completely due to time and money (and Kickstarter failing). So, we choose to go with a 6-8 hour game instead to bring something out to the world and show everyone the world of Dark Matter.We are going to change the "to be continued" text to something else, to make sure this will be the end of the game as is in a clear msg to everyone.
[Source: Dark Matter on Steam]
Our TakeLooking over the game's Steam description, which you can see here, there is no mention of this being the first chapter of the game, or any indication that Dark Matter has any kind of episodic future. Gamers are all too familiar with disappointing endings and cliffhangers, but this all feels very suspect. A wall of text with the words, "You have reached the end of the game, but there may be more left to explore," is a much different statement than, "to be continued." As the game stands now, it does feel unfinished, and I can sympathize with players who feel slighted.
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I don't want to sound like I'm all amazing or anything (our game was not this ambitious), but we failed two Kickstarters and the game was still finished. At the same time, this highlights the power of Kickstarter for getting new games to consumers and expanding the market.
The only issue I see here is the lack of communication. The game failed, and they still launched what they had, at a reduced price, giving it one final chance at life. While that's all well and good, they definitely should have included a note in the games description that the game was cut short, and may have an abrupt ending. Let people know that they didn't receive funding to finish the story arc, but if the game sells well enough, that they will do a second episode, completing the game. They should also mention that the game is half it's original price.
I feel like they could even return to kickstarter with an 'episode 2' project. I imagine it would be a low funding amount, given the scale, and the flow of money from part one. Not to mention, funding part two would definitely bring more attention to the currently available part one.
As it stands though, it almost seems like they were trying to get away with releasing half a game.