It seems adding the word ‘simulator’ to a game brings two things; insanely over-inflated budgets and a large amount of disaster. After the recent cancellation of Ant Simulator due to some poor budget use/embezzlement, the simulator curse strikes again with John Farjay (a one man development house) deciding to walk way from Bear Simulator after the next update. A game that, by the way, that somehow raised a $100,571 budget on Kickstarter.
Why has he decided to walk away from an unfinished game you ask? Because apparently taking huge amounts of money and producing a pretty bad, broken game might make people complain. The game suffered a poor Steam release, and even received a uncharacteristic berating from the ‘love him or hate him’ Youtuber PewDiePie. Apparently the resulting ‘drama’ was fairly intense, if Farjay’s comments are to be believed:
“don’t want to deal with the drama anymore…Can’t ignore it because that causes more drama and can’t do anything about it because that causes more drama.”
Farjay has explained that the development process was more complicated than he had anticipated, which he has stated is due to the fact that he is ‘not skilled enough’ to make the game any better than it already is.
There will be one final update to the game, which will add ‘Kickstarter Island’ and a few small fixes to the game, but nothing more after that. The fallout from this announcement has left most of the gaming community with a severe case of mixed feelings:
I have such mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the Internet is mean. On the other, welcome to game development. https://t.co/HQwabXJsNj
— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) March 6, 2016
Some are criticizing the harsh negative feedback that the one man show has received, due to a belief that expectations were far too lofty for the game to live up to. On the other hand, many claim that $100,000 in public funding means that you have no right to abandon a project, no matter how hard things get.
Allow us to throw our hats into the ring on this one; feeling sorry for Farjay doesn’t erase his responsibility, but the real blame lies with the backers. We can’t help but feel some sympathy for the over ambitious developer, as he clearly got well over his head on what was originally a simple project that blew well out of proportion. The truth is he may have had no expectation of success or a realization that people could go a little overboard when funding. But lets be honest, he and backers really should have know better.
Kickstarter is meant to give the little guys a chance at making a dream project a reality, however it is flooded with far too many inexperienced content creators who have no plans, training or motivation to fulfill campaign promises. In many ways Farjay is a symbolic microcosm of bad crowd funding; no one asked enough questions and people were foolish with their money.
There are a number of warning signs all over the Kickstarter page which people clearly skimmed over before throwing cash at the screen. Allow us, if you will, to elaborate.
First off is pitch, which is full of a ton of lighthearted jokes about the development, but pretty much nothing that inspires confidence in the final project. Farjay mocks his own development credibility numerous times, shows absolutely no experience other than a few ‘experiments’ and clearly doesn’t take anything seriously throughout the design document. Everything feels like a stream of consciousness without any real understanding of the risks involved when dealing with other peoples money, and the continued reminder that the person writing this is also the only developer is bad news. Warning klaxons should be sounding off already.
2)The Stretch Goals:
Next up are the lackluster stretch goals, which require certain amounts of funding beyond the minimum success milestone to achieve. Rather than focusing on genuinely important updates for the game, we are offered the chance to buy the team a bear suit for $30,000, the addition of in-game ‘evil chickens’ for $80,000 and a single cave for $90,000. God, those alarm bells are seriously getting loud now.
3)The Backer Rewards:
Finally the backer rewards come into sight, which finally show you that Farjay genuinely doesn’t fully comprehend value for money. For $1000 real American dollars you get the ultimate prize, which lets you…design an edible item in game. But that’s not all, you also get a rucksack and some in game items, all for the shockingly low cost of many peoples monthly salary. For the same price, most other teams will fly you out to the studio, take you for a meal, give you a sack of exclusive gear and even allow you 10 minutes in the ‘cupboard of passion’. Jesus Christ! The klaxons just blew out our ear drums and burst all the blood vessels in our face! OH, THE HUMANITY!
Something like this was always going to happen (thanks, hindsight!). Farjay illustrated multiple times that he had not thought this whole thing through and had no defined plan for if the funding process succeeded. The whole thing idea is haphazard, amateur and immature, but somehow people fell for the ‘simulator’ trap once again. It really is starting to seem that whether or not people choose to fund a project is entirely down to what the title reads, which in turn creates overblown expectations and varying levels of delusion regarding the end result. If the people who pledged extortionate amounts of money for Bear Simulator are angry at the final product or Farjay’s decision to leave the development fully, they only have themselves to blame.
Bear Simulator would never have been able to raise the amount of money it did if people took the time to think before blowing hundreds of dollars on a clearly wonky game project. The worst part is that this sort of thing WILL happen again when the next animal simulator or Stomping Ground crops up on a crowd funding platform, because people misunderstand their role when handing over cash. With public funding you’re an investor, not a consumer, so binge purchases are a direct path to absolute disaster. Remember the Wall Street crash? It’ll be like that, but as a result of a game that simulates the life of the elusive tape worm.
Bear Simulator is yet another important lesson that we all need to collectively learn; Think before you fund, or you might just pay for a big, fat hole in your wallet.