In a recent episode of our award-winning* Crowdfunding Analysis Time series, we took a look at a seemingly forgotten 3D platformer called Lobodestroyo. Raising $43,832 by the end of the campaign in 2013, James Guy and his team at Left-Handed Games set to work on production. But that $43K wasn’t all they had. They also had an additional $30,000 coming from Ouya from the Free The Games Fund. At least, they were supposed to.
As you’re likely aware, the Ouya was a bit of a failure, to say the least. The console and name was ultimately sold to Razer. The new owners flirted with the idea of not fulfilling the fund, but ultimately decided to instead buy however many copies of the finished games it would take to get up to whatever dollar amount was owed. This meant that it was completely useless to anyone still working on their game, as they wouldn’t be able to spend that money on it’s development.
Lobodestroyo’s Kickstarter page went silent not long after this announcement, save for a sporadic few updates over the next few months. It was a far cry from their consistent one update a month up until that point. Because of this, and that the team was only working on the game part time, I theorized we had all the answers in front of us. With half of their budget vanishing, this meant they had to focus on their day jobs instead of Lobodestroyo to make up the difference. This was just a theory, however. Only now have I finally got a chance to speak with project lead James Guy and ask him exactly what happened. Believe it or not, I was at least half-wrong.
It turns out the Free the Games Fund didn’t actually play that big a role in development, because the team never received any of the funds whatsoever. “The way it was structured had the money coming after milestones were completed and delivered,” Guy told me. “It didn’t work in a way that we could actually use any of the money until the game was largely completed so we didn’t get to a stage were we could capitalize and bring in some of the promised funds.”
“[Working full time jobs] has impacted development far more than I anticipated at the outset of the project.”
The fact that Ouya paid out in accordance to milestones set on the project isn’t surprising. In fact, most developers didn’t get much – if anything. One report stated that $600,000 of the $1 million fund was never paid out. What is surprising though, is that those milestones came so late in development. That’s something Guy and company anticipated. “Our budget was structured so that the incoming funds would go towards dev kits and porting costs to push the game to other platforms. Fortunately changes with Unity will mitigate some of those costs now.”
Guy also told me that he declined to continue the deal with Razer because “it became more of a publishing agreement,” which is something he wasn’t interested in.
If the Free the Games Fund isn’t what’s holding Lobodestroyo back, what is? This is the me being half-right part, by the way.
“[Working full time jobs] has impacted development far more than I anticipated at the outset of the project,” Guy confirmed. “The size and scope of our game has been changed a few times to accomodate [sic] the shortage of available time, but the simple truth is that making games takes a lot of dedicated time and effort- which is something our team has been struggling with as we maintain our day-to-day lives/jobs/families.”
“The wait sucks, and I feel terrible about that, but development is largely out of my hands at the moment and its going slowly.”
To that end, Guy told me that there has been many changes within the team as they try to finish the game. “We are at a stage right now [where] we are restructuring the team; bringing on new people, and shuffling the responsibilities of others.” With those changes comes all the behind-the-scenes stuff many don’t think about when new hires are made, and staff members shuffle around. “New servers, a developing different project management workflow, getting new guys up to speed, writing design documentation.”
That’s exactly why Guy has refrained from posting updates, because it’s a lot of “boring stuff, and it’s not really much progress that’s worth sharing and we don’t want to bore backers with excuses and boring back of house info.” There hasn’t been an update posted on Lobodestroyo’s Kickstarter page since November 2015, but a few behind-the-scenes images have found their way to Guy’s Twitter account.
I’m not sure I entirely agree with him on that front. Hearing about big changes like this, how games are designed, and how studios deal with shake-ups on a large scale is always interesting. At the very least, it’s good to keep backers in the loop so they know what’s going on, and that you’re still plugging along.
“The wait sucks, and I feel terrible about that, but development is largely out of my hands at the moment and its going slowly.” James seems to be sincere in his sorrow for the slow progress, but he followed this up with better news. “That will change, and I can’t wait to introduce our new crew to the backers and start showcasing progress again soon. We are almost out of the rut, and ready to press on full bore. Our backers and supporters are a very understanding group that we are massively appreciative of. I want to make sure we are in a spot to deliver them the game they want us to make.”
“[…] as a finished game, no we have not got a set release window at this stage.”
Guy tells me the long promised next update is coming soon, and will be a “state of the union” post to “catch backers back up to where we are with the project.”
We see Kickstarter developers go dark time and time again, before suddenly popping back up out of nowhere and continuing on like nothing happened. James has addressed he and his team’s shortcomings, admitting to underestimating how much time the game would take with most team members working day jobs. The fact of the matter is, there doesn’t seem to have been much to post about anyway over the last few months, with development grinding to a halt. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to share James’ optimism when it comes to the future of Lobodestroyo. Maybe that’s why it’s equally easy to be cynical about Left-Handed ever finding time to complete it.
Finally, I asked Guy if there was any release date in mind for Lobo, but as you’d expect no such date has been set. “We have sprints and internal goals set for the team to meet,” he assures me, “but as far as a finished game, no we have not got a set release window at this stage.”
All signs point to development on Lobodestroyo never fully ceasing. It’s slowed down significantly over the last few months, but Guy has brought on new staff, set up new milestones, and is ready to get this wolf howling again. We’ll see in the coming weeks and months how diving back into the pool goes for Left-Handed Games. For now it’s good to know things are progressing, however slowly. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one no matter what happens.