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Desperate Times

Sorry for the long delay in updates, and special apologies to those who have emailed or commented in the last week and to whom I haven’t yet replied. As I’m sure many of you suspect, things haven’t been going well for Haunts and Mob Rules Games. I am still determined to get the game out, but I no longer have any way of knowing when and how that will happen.

The principal cause for our dire condition is that there are no longer any programmers working on the game. Our lead programmer, Jonathan, was always going to move on to something else after a year or so. We had hoped that he would be able to work on the game in his spare time, but now that he’s going back at Google, he has told us that his spare time will be very minimal and not enough to make progress on the game. Our second programmer, Josh, has quit the project entirely to take another  job. He does not want to work on the game in his spare time.

The game as it stands has all the systems in place, but there are a lot of bugs. Knowing Jonathan would be leaving, the plan had been to get online play working and release the Beta, with Josh working to make the levels run in online play and scripting the AI for the single player versions of those levels.

Unfortunately, getting online play working took three times longer than estimated (instead of the twice as long as estimated I’d been counting on). It also required making adjustments to programming for all the levels, even when they’re not being played online. With no one left on the project who is capable of implementing those changes and debugging them during testing, the game is in a very patchwork state. In some cases, levels that once worked fine now have serious issues. Fixing those issues would require fixes both to the level programming and the core system programming, working in tandem.

But now it’s just me and Austin. Austin has finished up the art content for the initial release of the game, but he’s not a programmer. I’m not a programmer either. Although I know some small amount about how the level programming works, I’m not capable at this point of fixing the bugs I know about. This is further complicated by the fact that the game is written in the Go programming language, which is not widely used, limiting the pool of potential new programmers.

What then, to do? We are not giving up! I am currently in talks with another game company owned by some old friends and coworkers of mine, Blue Mammoth Games. They have expressed an interest in taking on Haunts. Austin and I would continue on in our roles, although we would both be doing so in our spare time. These new potential partners won't be able to make the decision for a few weeks at least and then after that it would be months before anything came out. Still, I think it's out best shot at this point.

This has been an emotionally rough couple of months for me, as I’ve invested almost all of my time for the past year or more in Haunts, along with my own money and reputation. It’s been terrible to watch it fail despite best efforts, but the failure is mine. There are scores of decisions I’d make differently if I had to do them over, and there were bets I made knowing the risks that haven’t paid off like we needed them to. I have failed to update because things were constantly going from bad to worse and then we started to see some rays of hope and I was hoping for something more concrete in the good news department. My obligation to all of you generous Kickstarter backers is foremost in my mind and I have not served you as well as I should have.

I will turn over my share of any future revenue from the game to whoever manages to get it finished, fun, and out to you. We have spent all the money we raised, but I will personally refund out of my own pocket anyone who wants to withdraw their support, no questions asked. We’re going to make this game, and if you can hang on for what looks to be a long road ahead, we will get it finished, but that’s not what I asked you to sign up for and it’s not what you gave us money for. email me directly through Kickstarter if you would like your pledge refunded.

Finally, although I’m very hopeful about the partnership deal I’m pursuing, that deal is not made yet and my friends at Blue Mammoth have said it’s fine if I look for other options. I haven’t found any yet, but now I’m throwing it open to you all. If any of you or someone you know is interested in and capable of taking on Haunts and doing right by it, I’d love to hear from you.

I have made an update to the Mob Rules Games web site that has descriptions and images of some of the work we’ve been doing. The attached video that Austin put together shows some of the gameplay from across a variety of different level, so you can see how close we are to finishing the game. All the systems are there, and when it works it’s fun to play. You can see how we spent your money, and that we weren’t just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, even if we have collapsed at the finish line.


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Reader Comments (6)

Although I'm not a backer, I have been following your kickstarter campaign since it looks like a really slick game.

How about this: how about you release the source code under a free/libre license? You can still keep the art assets under a different license if you wish for a time. You'll find there's a huge community of FLOSS developers who will help you out. Furthermore, then your game will live on forever in Linux repositories enjoyed by thousands (I'm sure it will rocket to the top of the Ubuntu Software Center), ported to other platforms, etc, instead of being forgotten after a few years!

Whadya think?


October 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermichaelb

Release the source code under Libre licence.

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjuancarlospaco

Why did you use such an obscure programming language? But by all means, release the code....

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Everyone is suggesting "open source this, do that." You mention one of the big hurdles happens to be that the game is mostly finished but extensive bug testing needs to happen, and that nobody is able to fix it. However, you have a huge pool of people who cared enough about your game when you gave them concepts and a promise that they invested their money into it, believing in it.

This isn't the first game which has come to this crossroad, nor will it be the last. Why not crowdsource the completion of the game? Turn your kickstarter backers into your testers. Even in the most archaic form of a game, people can still have fun, despite--and sometimes because of--bugs and glitches that exist. You also underestimate the PC community. Within 24 hours of Dark Souls getting a fairly shitty PC port, there was a patch developed that fixed tons of problems. It was done by one devoted fan. Even if your game is made in an obscure language (hell, I hadn't heard of the language before this, why did you choose it? I'm assuming it relates to mechanics?)

As I mentioned, there may be bugs that bring new features to the game that you had never considered. It isn't until your audience has a chance to break it will you know exactly how unplayable it is. It'll be your job to facilitate those "happy accidents." You may also need to get your hands dirty and learn the language that your game is created in, or convert it to C using what's already there as a springboard to find the piece of code you need to make the game act the same way as the one coded in Go.

From one developer to another, I think this would be the best option, prefaced with a bold "work in progress" banner, and perhaps a feedback system of some type (be it here or in-game). It worked for Minecraft, so why not here? Maybe try working with Valve and Steam's Greenlight. There are plenty of options available.

Oh, and to be honest, the best types of horror games are glitchy (IMO, maybe I'm crazy). They just add a layer of unpredictability that you cannot manufacture (ie terrifyingly glitched models, etc). Just my two cents on it though. I wish I had've at least thrown a dollar toward this project. Hope this helps you push forward.

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

I bet, although they are less than C or Java programmers, somewhere there are enough Go programmers who are interested in producing something practical in their language of choice, that will be enjoyed by a great publicity (even for not so much money).

Some programmer (Jonathan?) should really help you to make the decision on if and how to finish the project.

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKnurd Knödel

I’ve invested almost all of my time for the past year or more in Haunts.Me too.I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. ffxi gil | Archeage Gold

March 13, 2013 | Registered Commentertukar luison

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