When the Kickstarter campaign began, The Last Sleeper promised to be “an audio-visual experience that seamlessly blends audio-books, 2D animation, comics, and adventure games into one groundbreaking interactive story.” Four years down the road and all it has to show for such ambitious claims are two well edited teaser videos and a handful of unfinished sketches.
I was able to get in touch with the project’s writer/director, Kendall Deacon Davis, to get his take on what’s been going on behind the scenes. I was a surprised by how quickly Davis replied to, enthusiastically, inform me that, “yes, absolutely, this little project is still alive and kicking. I do expect we will be done with it this year.”
Davis elaborated that the delay was due to a “few major setbacks” behind the scenes.
“The first of these is the fact that I underscored the amount of work that would go into making the project as envisioned from the get-go,” Davis said. “So in order to not waste the funds that we did raise, it was important to take a bit of a step back and look at how we could achieve something that fulfilled the promise of the project while at the same time coming in at budget.”
Budgetary constraints seemed to take their toll in The Last Sleeper’s earliest updates. In September of 2012, a video was released demonstrating 3D visualization technology the team was planning to use to cut back on their reliance for expensive 2D artwork. Davis said they have since moved back to the original 2D vision of the game. “We had/have a very small crew working on the project and there’s just a lot more man-hours required to make something like that good,” Davis admitted.
He was quick to point out, however, that The Last Sleeper‘s budget account was not limited to the $15,940 in backer funding the game received back in January of 2012 when it first met its goal. “We still have what we need to deliver the project AND deliver refunds, so if anyone does opt for that we can afford and cover the loss,” Davis said.
Another factor behind the massive delay, Davis shared, was a lengthy legal arbitration around ownership of the IP. “I wound up being unable to get any work done on the project while we were fighting to maintain ownership of the IP. It was a protracted thing that really ground some of the momentum we had built to a halt.”
Davis cheerfully explained that all those issues were now behind them and the team was ready to move forward once again. “What we will do is plan out when the update comes — I’d like to say May or June. With the next update, we’ll be also announcing how a refund program might work for any backers who so desire it. I understand that it’s a hell of a time to wait for a rather small project, but I want to show what it is, at least a partially finished slice, so that people can make an informed decision.”
At this point none of the backers have received any of their rewards or been given any indication they can still expect them. Considering one backer had paid at least $5,000 for a hand-made sculpture of the game’s characters, this is a horrific oversight.
“We haven’t delivered anything yet because most of the rewards for the project are based on things that will be produced by the project.” Davis added that, “no refunds have been issued yet, mainly because we don’t want to do it in an ad-hoc manner; if there’s no process or structure to how to deliver a refund, it becomes complicated quite quickly.”
Davis definitely seems to believe in his project, he tells me he’s been working on the universe behind The Last Sleeper for over 10 years. Unfortunately, I don’t think the people who’ve been waiting for the game will share his enthusiasm. His entire plan to restart the project seems to just be releasing another trailer or demo and hoping that “the project does the talking once we get back into community engagement.”
I‘m hard pressed to believe that any amount of quality is going to make up for the cold shoulder he’s been giving the backers for the past two years, but Davis remains optimistic.
“We’ve gone through so much, and the journey has definitely not been easy. But we have everything we need to deliver it, we have all the funds we need, it’s just a matter of organization and execution now.”
If only he’d put the same organization and execution into The Last Sleeper as he does into waxing poetic about storytelling through art. As it stands now it’s hard to feel much confidence in that May/June update he promised.