rainfall3The Pitch :  Rainfall : The Sojourn was billed as a 2D Action RPG inspired by such classics as the Secret of Mana series and Chrono Cross.  There would be real time combat, skill system that allowed for upgrades, environmental puzzles, a party system that allowed for NPC’s to join you, and a total of 6 playable characters.  Rainfall’s lead designer, Karim, emphasized that each character would have their own voice and presence, meaning they weren’t just cookie cutter characters, but people you’ll come to care about.

Neither the funding video nor the Kickstarter page indicate what the $6,000 was to be used for, nor was there information given on how far into development Rainfall was.  In a creepy bit of foreshadowing, the funding video ends with the line “Without you Kickstarter, there is no Rainfall.”

Funding Period : November 2nd 2012 – December 5th 2012

Amount Raised : $19,822 of a $6,000 goal

Current Status : Cancelled.

rainfall2What Happened : Based on review of the comments section on the Rainfall Kickstarter page backer discontent started within a couple months of the project being funded.  There were large swaths of time with no updates from the developers, and a lack of gameplay footage or new screenshots.  After weeks of prodding from backers asking whether the project was cancelled Karim posted on November 30th that he would have an official update the following day.  His next update came on December 20th in the form of a backer only update that read in part :

“I’d like to first off formally apologize for the lack of updates as of late. It seems this project had it’s ups and downs, but mostly downs. I’m not really expecting people to accept a formal apology at this point in time as my lack of communication has done more harm then (sic) good. But I cannot in good conscious leave people in the dark.”

The rest of the update continues by pointing the finger of blame on the pixel artist as well as the sound designer, stating that content was not provided in a timely manner.  Curiously, rather than fire those not pulling their weight Karim cancels the project.

As you can guess a number of people in the comments section have been on the usual campaign to get their pledges back, calling out the various ways they were deceived.  So far as we can tell one person, who has gone on a bit of a crusade against Karim, has received his $10 back.

Here’s the rest of the December 20th backer update, by way of Reddit courtesy of tgampen, (sic) throughout.

I’d like to first off formally apologize for the lack of updates as of late. It seems this project had it’s ups and downs, but mostly downs. I’m not really expecting people to accept a formal apology at this point in time as my lack of communication has done more harm then good. But I cannot in good conscious leave people in the dark.

I’d like to first talk about how the project started. I think these details are important as it highlights what went wrong.

I’d like to talk about the project and how it ultimately came to this state. I’ve been planned out the direction of this project since 2012. However, prior to that I’ve worked on test projects and one large epic RPG game in (which I knew would never come to fruition because of the size of the project). These games were traditional JRPG like games with an emphasis on story and good scenario writing. I mostly used whatever engine fit best be it RPG Maker or Game Maker. Psy_Wombats was interested in working on a game with me but didn’t want to use any pre-existing engine. This worked out well for me because I found the engines available were kind of limiting (I tested several).

This is turn expanded the scope of what was once a small game. With Rainfall, I took on the challenge of making an action battle system that I felt had sound game design concepts. I was never into 2d action rpgs in general because of how seemingly random the battles were and how the input felt like button smashing.

rainfall4It meant a lot to me and it was really an attempt to put myself out there and my ideas. I felt like a lot of my ideas and game concepts had potential to be something special. Admittedly, I was out of my comfort zone with regards to creating an Action RPG. However, this was my prime motivator for me at the time and it was what interested me most about the project.

I started making the project on my own, all of the assets! Unfortunately, I’m more of the jack of all trades. Writing is my favorite thing to do. Game design and writing seems to take a background role when it comes to game development for some reason. It fits my personality so I didn’t mind, in fact for Rainfall that’s exactly what I wanted.

When I contacted the lead pixel artist he took my art and produced art that not only complemented the game, it stayed true to most of what I imagined the game would visually look like. I worked along side him and still helped produce art. What made me most excited was how professional he was and how fast he finished products. The fact that had such amazing skills with regards to art direction was a huge bonus. He just “got” it.

He also had his own motivation to explore the art form and referenced many mediums. I didn’t want just an artist for hire, I wanted someone who not only believed in the concept but also had their own artistic endeavors, ideas, a team member who I could bounce ideas off of. I gave him a lot of creative freedom to explore his ideas at the same time. This was the best feeling as he is an individual who has produced assets for professional studios. He told me his art for Rainfall was some of the best art he has ever produced. That liberating feeling of doing what you want is the best thing ever.

I approached Alex our composer after we had a general look and he was humbled and honored to join the team. He came from a project that died after years of development and explained to me how much he wanted his music to be part of a good game. I linked him music he produced had recently made at the time using SNES sound fonts created by a friend of his. I wanted music like that and I realized he was very talented and his music showed a lot of heart.

However, when he signed on to Rainfall team he wanted to make music that differed from what I had outlined would fit the project more. At times I felt his music sounded too high quality with the reverb and so on and that we should stick to creating music that fit the game project setting more (rather then good standalone music). We originally agreed on more of a playstation one type of soundtrack in terms of sound quality.

He submitted his first track and it was all over the place. It sounded like an orchestral for a movie soundtrack. Though it had some amazing ideas. Nonetheless, He seem to have taken this personally and didn’t want to be told how to make music.

rainfall5I backed off, and he continued to produce for the project. Alex is the type of person who needs guidance and direction, starkly different than the lead artist Matt. He’s a timid individual and I guess even with LOTS OF REASSURANCE from me he didn’t feel valued. Though he never told me this. He kept taking LONG breaks between producing songs. He was hardly around (chat, skype, etc) and was having personal life issues. I mostly spoke to him through email which I found to be too formal. I wanted to work with everyone closely. He never let me in.

I tried my best, I gave both critical feedback and provided details to what the next “sound” should be like, or the direction I felt matched the game. The best entries to me were Sol E Chuva and Seasonal Dew which we talked about the most. I felt that “Into the Fray” had a similar vibe to “The Opened Way” (Shadows of Colossus) and he admitted that influenced it a lot. We laughed, it seemed things were good.

In all honesty, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to compose the album myself originally. I was doing it on my own at first anyways. Composing is something I want to become better at and I dream about producing my own full soundtrack in the future. I found a direction, the type of sound I wanted to hear for Rainfall. It’s what actually influenced my writing a lot. Music and writing became some sort of spiritual high for me, a journey…

I put all that on the back-burner to produce a cool indie game I could be proud of. Rainfall is a pretty niche. There isn’t many games out there like Secret of Mana series anymore. I was willing to get a team and share the experience.

Kickstarter was one of the prime motivators for me because it was a great way to not only get exposure, get financial help, but to also to convince the team members I recruit that the project was worth working on. If it failed, so be it I would have walked away and work on another project and released it myself.

I produce music very slowly so I wanted someone dedicated to the job. Alex was technically more experienced too, there’s no argument there. I could see the difference in our level of skill. He was the better composer and thus I was comfortable with him taking over the role. I wasn’t comfortable producing music publicly anyways. I do not call myself a composer, that’s a heavy title!

If you ever composed music yourself, you may relate to the pressure of not feeling like you’re not good enough. Besides, it felt weird to share the job anyways. I felt it would be best if we divided up the tasks. He was the man for the job. That’s how all the greats like Hironobu Sakaguchi made those classical retro games we will probably never ever forget.

I knew developing a game with a team could be fickle. I knew it was one of those things that if you really wanted to make things work as a team, you had to find the right people, let people do their assigned work, and give them some room to breathe as well. Alex wanted control of the soundtrack so I gave up that role entirely. It was also agreed that he’d also do the sound effects as well.

Jdarnel was the original graphical artist for Rainfall who adapted my Talyssa’s and Aile’s designs. She never seemed that interested in project, was just making ends meet. She took ages to produce anything and eventually left due to her health. As much as I liked her art (some backers did too), it was best to find a replacement. Though in this case I had no other options.

Yuko Rabbit is someone who was recommended to me. Indie game scene is a small community and it was the lead designer of Americana Dawn who recommended her to me as we have been friends for a long time. I helped her find her current graphical artist for her game project, it worked out perfectly for both of us!

Yuko I can say has honestly been the best addition. She’s so professional and humble and just an all around great person to work with. She normally does professional work for bigger fish but she actually liked my ideas and we complemented each other well. Overall, great rapport!

She was also kind of enough to forward any messages backers sent her my way. Really, please don’t give her a hard time she’s a really kind of soul :(.

Things were looking great with our full team. Psy worked on the engine and has always been quick to implement features once things were working. Yuko gave good timelines and honored her word. The Lead Pixel Artist and Composer who ultimately left the project.

Despite the good rapport I had with both our lead composer and lead pixel artist. They did not honor timelines. In fact, they seemingly worked at their own pace which spells disaster for game development as you may know. Once the tasks were divided up and I posted their work – My hands were tied. I couldn’t just take over their jobs! I couldn’t just replace them!

A lot of the backers admitted that they loved the soundtrack. I didn’t want to replace the any art or music with someone else’s work. You backers backed this game to hear that music and play the game I presented in the Kickstarter Advertisement. I mentioned how I wanted to scale back the project (as it was originally designed) but stuck with the current iteration regardless.

I really hate changing things around. In hindsight, it was probably the best course of action but I felt like I could make it work.

My job is to take assets and implement them. This includes level design, implementing the characters and ultimately implementing ALL of the gameplay. Psy_wombats was the one that made sure they worked. Besides this, I am in charge of the direction of the story and the asset creation. I felt my role was big but it felt small because of how slow things were going. These type of things is like cancer for game development.

I gave out tasks to create assets which were NEEDED to progress the game development. Assets were made but at a SLOW pace.

Alex apologized to me several times for taking long with things, remember he was ultimately also responsible for sound effects as well. But honestly, to me I felt like when it came to game development… A soundtrack isn’t something that has to be finished as soon as possible.

Though, over time I realized that he literally stop producing work all together. I could have found a solution if he was upfront instead of the runaround.

Matt (as professional and TALENTED as he was) was working on too many other projects. He gave me hints that he was overwhelmed but he has never openly said that he was. If he was, I would have replaced him because it was necessary. You can’t make a game without assets. I asked him if he was ready before I posted the Kickstarter ad, he said that he was.

Contractual work was obviously needed here but I didn’t feel like I wanted to hold my teammates hostage. I actually trusted them. They were more than teammates, they were people helping me achieve a childhood dream. This was clearly my mistake, one of several I made.

I never wanted to replace anyone, I felt like the project would be made with these people who I considered friends or it would die. Deep down my gut feeling back in February / March, when the lead Pixel artist seemingly disappeared for quite some time, was that I should have replaced him.

About the Author

Greg Micek

Greg Micek has been writing on and off about games since the late nineties, always with a focus on indie games. He started DIYGames.com in 2000, which was one of the earliest gaming sites to focus exclusively on indie games.

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