One of our goals at IndieHangover is to highlight lessons that Indie Game Developers have learned, and help pass those on through the community. Unfortunately, some of the most valuable advice often comes from failure. cancelled
Case in point: Upsilon Circuit, a game we were particularly excited about when it was first talked about. Earlier this week, Robot Loves Kitty officially cancelled the project, and wrote a heartfelt blog detailing some of the trials they went through and what they learned.
We’ve picked out some of the best bits to highlight here, but consider reading the entire post on the Robot Loves Kitty Tumblr.
Check out our Interview with the Developers of Upsilon Circuit for some backstory:
Kitty identifies three main reasons that Upsilon Circuit’s Development became problematic:
The oversimplified answer [to why UC failed] would be that the scope of the game was too ambitious and we underestimated the time and money needed. In reality, for any project, there are many things that can go wrong that influence these things.
UC’s concept had many game elements highly intertwined and reliant on each other, so cutting features without changing the functionality and direction of UC was impossible. It was also difficult to explain fully to people, including our team.
2. Partnership Woes
We are just two self taught indie game devs. To make UC, we hired people, signed with a partner/incubator near the end, and then managed a large team, all for the first time. In hindsight, these were things that we not only didn’t know how to do well, but also made the two of us very miserable.
Instead of scaling the project back when we realized our money would run out long before release, we pushed ourselves harder and kept going, and eventually signed with a partner to help fund the last leg of UC’s journey.
Signing with a partner or publisher and bringing in a larger team are very normal things to do in the industry. However.. they were entirely new to the both of us. Learning (about setting and meeting Milestones, dealing with various issues, and managing a large team) on such a complex project turned out to be very bad for us and UC. No one really did anything markedly wrong, but nothing seemed to go the way it was supposed to. Which in part led to the next point..
New to running a team stress. New to having partners stress. Crowdfunding stress. Partners pulling out mid failing crowdfunding stress. Having to tell a team “sorry and goodbye” stress. So much stress.
We felt like we had something that could change the gaming world forever, and we were so passionate about it. When things went belly up in the third year, the emotional hit was debilitating.
It’s always tough to read such a heartfelt blog like this, from dev’s that were clearly super excited about their game concept. It’s particularly tough because Upsilon Circuit was such a unique and vibrant idea that we felt had tons of potential. However, after reading about the stress they were going through, I cannot help but feel this was the right call for their health.
Here’s a list of what Robot Loves Kitty Learned:
Things We Learned From Our Failure (your own mileage may vary):
– Take the project’s timeframe, and triple it. Then triple it again.
– A unique idea can add an “I need to get this out before someone else does it” feeling. Let. That. Go. No good choices were made from that feeling.
– Don’t bring on full time artists or audio people until the project is really ready for them, use placeholder art and sounds, when you can. Things change, and we redid a lot of our art.
– Make sure all contracts clearly state what happens if things get cancelled, or situations drastically change.
– Hiring more than one or two people means managing them part time, or full time. We now know that we hate managing people, and are terrible at it.
– No matter how smart and awesome your team is, if you can’t get someone 100% behind your idea, your project will suffer.
– Having a partner or publisher is a lot like having a boss while also being a boss. Some people like it, but we will likely stay indie or die trying.
– Don’t sacrifice your own well being or happiness for a dream. Yes, we’ve sacrificed a lot in the past, we lived in a tree house in the woods so we could keep making games before. But there is a limit, and we found it with Upsilon Circuit, and we stubbornly ignored it and payed the price mentally.
– Kittens make things a lot better.
But this is by no means the end of Robot Loves Kitty! Far from it!
The team is now working on a game titled Super Tony Land, a physics platformer that reminds me a little bit of Mario Maker. You’ll be able to craft different levels in the game, and then link them together to create whole worlds, reoccurring characters, stories and challenges. Super Tony Land will be in some ways the legacy of Upsilon Circuit, and many of the concepts and ideas in Upsilon Circuit are set to reappear in some way in Super Tony Land.
In Upsilon Circuit the story was something we wanted the players to unfold and influence.. To give creation to the audience, experience it ourselves, and encourage Streamer/audience connectivity. To give real power to the players.
For Super Tony Land we’ve designed an extensive level editor, with visual programming blocks and NPC/Story tools. Anyone can build worlds or challenges in the free editor that we will be releasing alongside the game. We hope that communities and content creators will build and share their own universes, and we are looking forward to playing them!
Super Tony Land is scheduled to be available on Steam Spring 2018.